Two U.S. Congressmen from Florida recently introduced legislation that would require companies to pay cleanup costs under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) and face Clean Water Act penalties for spills that originate in foreign waters but reach U.S. waters. Sponsors Patrick Murphy (D-Fla) and Carlos Curblo (R-Fla) informed this move was in light of the devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and in response to U.S. neighbors ramping up their offshore activities. This includes Mexico which was recently said to be “ill-equipped” to handle an oil spill according to a top oil regulator.
Oil spill removal costs are unlimited under OPA, which only applies to spills originating in U.S. waters. Under current legislation, the Oil Liability Trust Fund would pay $150 million for cleanup costs and up to $850 million for claims made against a foreign spill originating outside U.S. waters. While the U.S. Attorney General could seek up to $1 billion from the designated responsible party, American taxpayers are on the hook for the rest of the spill’s costs. The BP oil spill cleanup efforts cost at least $14 billion according to the sponsors and would have left taxpayers with an enormous bill had BP not covered these costs.
This bill is a welcome move to ensure that coastal communities will have the necessary resources available to them in the event a foreign spill reaches their waters. Hopefully, that won’t happen, but this bill was needed if it does. It should be passed and signed into law without delay.
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