Oil Pollution Act/ILTA


The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) was enacted following the Exxon Valdez oil spill to provide a comprehensive, unified system of oil spill liability and compensation. The law establishes liability for removal costs and damages in connection with the discharge of oil into navigable waters, adjoining shorelines, or the exclusive economic zone. Responsibility for implementing OPA 90s provisions rests with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The numerous provisions of OPA 90 further several important environmental goals, including:
  • Establishing civil and criminal penalties for oil spill violations
  • Developing a national contingency plan for the effective clean-up of oil spills
  • Establishing claims procedures for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund
  • Setting certain construction specifications for oil tankers
  • Setting financial responsibility and insurance requirements
  • Establishing procedures for natural resource damage assessment and clean-up.
In addition, OPA 90 authorized use of the so-called the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF). The OSLTF is a billion-dollar fund established to pay for removal costs and damages to individuals harmed by oil spills. The OSLTF is administered by the National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, the OSLTF can be used to pay claims individuals for the following caused by the result of an oil spill:
  • Removal costs, which could be used (a) to pay cleanup contractors, (b) for equipment used in removal operations, (c) for chemical testing to identify the type and source of oil, (d) for disposal of recovered oil and oily debris, and (e) for preparation of associated cost documentation;
  • Damages to real or personal property;
  • Natural resource damages;
  • Loss of profits or earning capacity;
  • Loss of Federal, State, or Local government revenues; and
  • Loss of subsistence use of natural resources.
If you have been adversely impacted by an oil spill, Bode & Fierberg can help you get money from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, as the firm is very knowledgeable about NPFCs claim procedures.

OPA 90 is integrated with other environmental statutes, such as the Clean Water Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, to provide a nationwide system for oil spill liability, removal and restoration, and compensation.

OPA 90 also provides for the restoration of injured natural resources, along with liability for lost services. Designated federal, state, tribal, and foreign natural resource trustees are responsible for: (1) returning natural resources to their pre-spill condition; and (2) recovering compensation for interim losses of natural resources and services through restoration, rehabilitation, replacement, or acquisition.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has published guidance documents for the assessment of natural resource damages. The guidance documents divide the damage assessment process into three phases: (1) preassessment: where trustees evaluate injury and determine whether there is authority to pursue restoration; (2) restoration planning: where trustees evaluate and quantify potential injuries and determine appropriate restoration actions; and (3) restoration implementation: where trustees and/or responsible parties implement restoration, monitoring, and corrective actions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established an oil program which includes requirements for reporting spills, preventing spills, and responding to spills. The oil program emphasizes five key areas: (1) prevention; (2) preparedness; (3) response; (4) liability and compensation; and (5) research and development. Provisions on prevention include requirements for crew training, as well as double hull requirements for newly constructed tankers and tank barges. Preparedness includes contingency plans, vessel response plans an exercises, as well as training on spill responses. Provisions on liability and compensation serve to deter pollution, as well as to provide funds for cleanup and compensation. Finally, research and development provisions include response techniques and hardware.

The Managing Partner of Bode & Fierberg, L.L.P., William H. Bode, delivered a presentation on OPA 90 at the 24th Annual International Liquid Terminals Association International Operating Conference and Trade Show. Click here to read this presentation.

In addition, Bode & Fierberg, L.L.P. publishes The Oil Pollution Act: Case Digest and Sourcebook - a comprehensive guide to OPA 90, including analysis of OPA legal challenges, analysis of OPA consent decrees, information on reporting spills and submitting claims to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, as well as the text of the statute. To view the table of contents, click here: The Oil Pollution Act: Case Digest and Sourceboook. To purchase The Oil Pollution Act: Case Digest and Sourcebook for $95, click here.

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