Oil Pollution Act

In response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the United States Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA).  The OPA extensively amended the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.  The OPA addressed issues associated with preventing, responding to, and paying for oil pollution.  Polluters are made accountable for the clean up costs.

The OPA introduced certain regulations on companies in the shipment of oil to the U.S. They are:

-The company must present a plan to prevent the possible oil spill.
-They must also produce a detailed containment and cleanup plan in case of any oil spill emergency.

Secondly, the OPA establishes a double hull requirement for newly constructed tankers, and tank barges that operate in U.S. waters.  It also established a phase out schedule for existing tankers.  The first phase out year for single hull tankers was 1995.

Thirdly, U.S. Coast Guard is the enforcement authority under OPA.  They concentrate on pollution prevention through oversight, and strict enforcement of the OPA.  The key doctrines with respect to enforcement are:

-Consistency of enforcement.
-Usage of inducement and sanction in order to encourage compliance of the Act in the regulated community.
-An effective use of resources.
-Employment of educated personnel.

The inducement measures of the coast guard include waiver of penalties, and reduction in regulatory burdens for responsible vessel owners.  Likewise, the sanctions consist of civil, criminal, and administrative penalties. These measures create deterrent effect on the potential polluters.

Finally, the OPA created the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) to compensate oil spill victims.  It can provide up to one billion dollars per spill incident.

These measures were adopted to increase the efficiency of the federal government to deal with spill emergencies.  Prior to the passage of this Act, the average discharge of oil from tankers in U.S. waters was about 70,000 barrels.  The oil spill cases reduced considerably after the passage of the Act.


Inside Oil Pollution Act