Washington, D.C. – In an effort to update the laws governing oil spill response, liability and protection, today the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 1684, the Foreign Spill Protection Act of 2015, which modernizes the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) as it relates to foreign sourced oil spills. Alaska Congressman Don Young, an original sponsor of OPA 90 and H.R. 1684, has worked for years to ensure the safe transport of oil and other tanker cargo through U.S. waters. Following the passage of H.R. 1684, Congressman Young shared the following statement:
“The laws governing oil spill response and protection in the United States, including damage payments and liability, were developed in response to the devastating Exxon Valdez Oil Spill," said Congressman Young. "This tragic event, which ultimately led to the passage of OPA 90, revealed major shortcomings in the way we responded to oil spills. As an original sponsor of that Act and longtime advocate of transportation safety, I am committed to reforming our laws to ensure all responsible parties – both foreign and domestic – are liable for actions in our waters.
“With maritime activity increasing in the Arctic, particularly as Russia expands its off-shore operations, it’s increasingly important to ensure American interests and waters are protected," Congressman Young said. "If a vessel transporting oil within Russian waters were to ever suffer an oil spill, ocean currents may very well bring that oil into Alaskan waters. H.R. 1684 would force the responsible party to cover all costs associated with cleanup within U.S. waters and upon nearby shores.”
H.R. 1684, the Foreign Spill Protection Act of 2015, would ensure that the responsible party, regardless of origin, pays for ALL American cleanup costs associated with an oil spill. Under current law, spills occurring in U.S. waters must be paid for in full by the responsible party. However, foreign oil spills reaching U.S. waters are paid for through the Oil Liability Trust Fund, which covers $150 million for clean up and up to $850 million for claims.
Under this bill, foreign entities responsible for a spill reaching U.S. waters would pay for all costs associated with cleanup. Those refusing, or denying guilt, would face significant civil penalties imposed by the U.S. Attorney General in the appropriate district court.
Prevention measures within OPA 90 included double hull requirements for oil tankers, the use of towing vessels, vessel communication systems, as well as liners for onshore facilities. Response measures within the Act included contingency planning, national response units, Coast Guard district response groups, and tank vessel and facility response plans. Congressman Young worked to further bolster these efforts by requiring dual tug escorts for the double hulled oil tankers in Prince William Sound.