Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Conference report filed in House (08/01/1990)

Oil Pollution Act of 1990 - Title I: Oil Pollution Liability and Compensation - Establishes the Oil Spill Compensation Fund. Makes the responsible party for a vessel or facility from which oil is discharged (or which poses a substantial threat of discharge) liable for removal costs and for economic or natural resource damages, including: (1) injury or loss of real or personal property or natural resources; (2) loss of use (including subsistence use) of natural resources; (3) loss or impairment of income, profits, or earning capacity; (4) loss of Federal and State tax, royalty, rental, or net profits share revenue; and (5) net costs of increased public services as a result of the discharge.

Sets forth defenses to liability.

Establishes liability limits for: (1) tankers; (2) other vessels; (3) onshore and offshore facilities; and (4) deepwater port facilities.

Divides liability for an offshore mobile drilling unit into two parts: first as a tank vessel with respect to an oil discharge; and second as an offshore facility to the extent that damages and removal costs exceed the responsible party's statutory liability limits. Authorizes the President to establish lower liability limits for onshore facilities.

Directs the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating to study and report to the Congress on the relative operational and environmental risks of oil transportation by vessel to deepwater ports versus other ports. Requires the Secretary to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to lower liability limits for deepwater ports if the study finds the risks are lower.

Directs the President to report periodically to the Congress on the desirability of adjusting liability limits. Requires the periodic adjustment of liability limits to reflect increases in the Consumer Price Index.

Makes the responsible party liable for interest on the amount paid to settle a claim, with certain exceptions.

Makes the President (or authorized representative of any State, Indian tribe, or foreign government) the trustee to act on behalf of the public to recover damages for injury to Federal, State, or foreign government natural resources. Requires the President, acting through specified Federal agencies, to promulgate regulations within two years of enactment of this Act for the assessment of damages for injury to natural resources resulting from an oil discharge.

Sets forth guidelines for recovery by foreign claimants of removal costs and damages.

Outlines circumstances under which the responsible party for a vessel or facility from which oil is discharged (or which threatens discharge) may recover removal costs and damages. Authorizes a civil action for contribution.

Sets forth guidelines for indemnification agreements affecting responsible parties. Requires the President to consult with designated trustees regarding removal actions.

Sets forth the uses for which the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (the Fund) may be obligated by Federal and State officials consistent with the National Contingency Plan.

Authorizes the President to obligate the Fund for a maximum of $250,000 per discharge or substantial threat of discharge of oil per incident per State.

Directs the President to enter into agreements with a State to establish procedures under which a designated State official may receive payments from the Fund for removal costs consistent with the National Contingency Plan. Requires the President to promulgate regulations detailing the manner in which the Fund may be obligated.

Sets forth a claims procedure.

Provides for designation of a discharge source and advertisement of that fact and the pertinent claims procedure by the responsible party. Grants any person, including the Fund, subrogation rights for payments made for removal costs and damages.

Provides that the Attorney General (upon request of the Secretary) shall commence an action against the responsible party to recover any costs paid from the Fund as a result of oil discharge or substantial threat of discharge, including one from a foreign offshore unit.

Requires the responsible party for certain-size vessels and offshore facilities to establish financial responsibility sufficient to meet the maximum amount of liability to which such persons could be subjected under this Act.

Provides for judicial review of regulations and actions under this Act. Grants State courts jurisdiction to hear cases under this Act, as well as under State law. Permits the States to impose additional liability or requirements regarding oil discharges within their borders. Retains the rights of the States to maintain a fund for oil pollution compensation. Authorizes States to enforce the financial responsibility requirements of this Act.

Title II: Conforming Amendments - Amends the Intervention on the High Seas Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Deepwater Port Act, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments of 1978 to reflect the provisions of this Act.

Title III: International Oil Pollution Prevention and Removal - Expresses the sense of the Congress that it is in the best interests of the United States to participate in an international oil pollution liability and compensation scheme that is at least as effective as Federal and State laws in preventing incidents and in guaranteeing compensation for damages resulting from incidents.

Directs the Secretary of State to report to the Congress the results of a review of international treaties and agreements with the Government of Canada regarding: (1) oil discharge prevention in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain; (2) effective oil and removal; and (3) full compensation to those injured by a Great Lakes or Lake Champlain oil discharge.

Directs the President to encourage international organizations to establish an international inventory of spill removal equipment and personnel.

Urges the Secretary of State to enter into negotiations with the Government of Canada to ensure that tugboat escorts are required for certain-size tank vessels in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and in Haro Strait.

Title IV: Prevention and Removal - Subtitle A: Prevention - Amends Federal maritime law to prohibit the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating from issuing a license, certificate of registry, or merchant mariner's document unless the applicant makes available any information contained in the National Driver Register regarding specified violations. Authorizes the Secretary to review such applicant's criminal record. Directs the Secretary to require testing for the use of a dangerous drug in violation of law or Federal regulation. Provides for five-year renewal terms for licenses, certificates of registry and merchant mariner's documents. Requires the Secretary to: (1) request the holder of such a document to make available all information contained in the National Driver Register regarding certain offenses by him or her; and (2) require the testing for violation of substance abuse laws. Authorizes preemployment, periodic, random, reasonable cause, and post accident testing. Authorizes the Secretary to suspend temporarily a license, certificate, or document (under specified circumstances) for individuals performing safety sensitive functions. Revises the basis for suspension or revocation.

Outlines the removal procedure to be used by the most senior licensed officers on a vessel when the individual in charge of the vessel is under the influence of alcohol or a dangerous drug and is incapable of commanding the vessel.

Sets forth procedures for the Secretary to receive the motor vehicle driving record of a holder of maritime documents (or applicant thereof). Restricts the transmittal of information that is more than three years old.

Revises the staffing standards for foreign tank vessels to cite circumstances under which the Secretary must prohibit documented vessels from entering the United States until their standards are equivalent to U.S. law (or accepted international maritime law).

Amends the Ports and Waterways Safety Act to direct the Secretary to study and report to the Congress on: (1) whether the Secretary should be given additional authority to direct the movement of vessels on navigable waters; and (2) an evaluation of ports and channels in need of new or improved vessel traffic service (VTS) systems.

Amends Federal maritime law to provide that a member of the complement of a U.S. vessel operating on register or of a Canadian vessel may serve as pilot on undesignated Great Lakes waters if the member holds a U.S. license or equivalent Canadian license. Increases the penalties for Great Lakes pilotage violations from $500 or $10,000.

Directs the Secretary to issue regulations regarding: (1) the plating thickness standards of vessels carrying oil in bulk as cargo or cargo residue; and (2) warning and monitoring devices for oil levels and oil pressure in cargo tanks.

Requires the Secretary to study and report to the Congress on tanker navigation safety standards.

Directs the Secretary of the Army to study and report to the Congress on the feasibility of modifying dredges for possible use in removing discharges of oil and hazardous substances.

Requires the President to study and report to the Congress on the use of liners or other secondary containment means at onshore facilities used for bulk oil storage near navigable waters. Directs the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to define conditions under, and designate the waters upon, which tank vessels may operate in navigable waters with auto-pilot light engaged or with an unattended engine room. Restricts the work hours of certain tanker personnel except for emergencies or drills. Sets forth tank vessel construction standards which mandate double hull construction for specified vessels. Requires the Secretary to report to the Congress regarding: (1) the need for other operational and structural tank vessel requirements which might provide greater protection to the marine environment; and (2) the results of a periodic review and assessment of tank vessel construction standards.

Amends the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 to cite conditions under which the Secretary may guarantee obligations to help finance the construction or reconstruction of commercial vessels owned by U.S. citizens in coastwise, intercoastal, or foreign trade. Permits the Secretary to establish a Vessel Replacement Guarantee Fund as a subaccount in the Federal Ship Financing Fund to receive all moneys from fees and other payments with respect to such guarantees.

Amends Federal maritime law to direct the Secretary to designate waters: (1) in the Prince William Sound area where the pilot must hold both a Federal license and one from the State of Alaska, and may not be a member of the vessel's crew; and (2) where certain tankers must have federally-licensed masters or mates who are separate and distinct from the vessel's pilot. Directs the Secretary to: (1) promulgate regulations defining those areas on which certain single-hulled tankers transporting oil in bulk must be escorted by at least two towing vessels; (2) complete and transmit to the Congress a feasibility study regarding a Maritime Oil Pollution Prevention Training program to be carried out in cooperation with approved maritime training institutions; and (3) issue regulations to ensure that vessels are equipped with radio marine navigation safety warnings and can engage in radio communications on designated frequencies with the Coast Guard.

Subtitle B: Removal - Amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) to require the President to ensure effective and immediate removal of a discharge, and mitigation or prevention of a substantial threat of discharge, of oil or hazardous substances into the Exclusive Economic Zone or onto adjoining shorelines or in any way threatening natural resources under exclusive Federal management authorization. Requires the President to direct all Federal, State, and private actions in the event of an actual or potential discharge which is a substantial threat to the public health or welfare. Exempts from liability, with certain exceptions, any person acting pursuant to the National Contingency Plan or as otherwise directed by the President. Requires the Plan to establish procedures for: (1) removing a worst-case discharge or threat; and (2) coordinating the activities of Coast Guard strike teams and specified others. Requires revision and republication of the Plan by a certain date.

Requires the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating to establish a National Response Unit at Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to: (1) compile a list of oil spill removal resources, personnel, and equipment worldwide; (2) coordinate use of private and public personnel and equipment in worst case discharges; (3) administer Coast Guard strike teams and provide technical assistance; and (4) review and keep area contingency plans. Requires the same Secretary to establish in each Coast Guard district a Coast Guard District Response Group.

Establishes an Area Committee of presidentially-appointed Federal, State, and local agency personnel for each area designated by the President. Requires each Area Committee to submit an Area Contingency Plan for the President's approval.

Directs the President to issue regulations requiring an owner or operator of a tank vessel or facility to submit for presidential approval a worst case discharge response plan. Requires him to review promptly and periodically any response plan for an onshore facility which could reasonably be expected, because of location, to cause significant and substantial environmental damage with a discharge. Requires periodic removal drills. Denies any Federal liability for damages arising from actions or omissions relating to a response plan.

Directs the President to designate areas for Area Committees within six months after enactment of this Act. Sets deadlines for implementation of related measures.

Requires the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating to ensure that vessels designed and built to replace buoy tenders are equipped with oil skimming systems that complement the vessels' primary mission of servicing navigation aids.

Requires the President to determine the quantities of oil and hazardous substances that may be harmful to the environment as well as to public health or welfare.

Permits the issuance of coastwise certificates to not-for-profit oil spill response cooperatives whose foreign ownership is not more than 50 percent.

Subtitle C: Penalties and Miscellaneous - Amends FWPCA to increase from $10,000 to $250,000 for an individual and $500,000 for an organization the maximum fine, and/or from one year to three years (or five years in the case of a subsequent conviction) the maximum prison term, for failure to notify the appropriate Federal agency of a discharge. Requires the Federal Government to notify a State which is or is about to be affected by a discharge. Increases administrative and civil penalties, including up to $25,000 per day of violation or $1,000 per barrel of oil or unit of reportable quantity of hazardous substance discharged (higher in the case of gross negligence or willful misconduct).

Increases criminal, administrative, and civil penalties for related violations.

Establishes a $25,000 per day of violation civil penalty for violation of financial responsibility requirements. Authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to seek a judicial order to compel compliance, including an order terminating operations.

Requires deposit into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund of any penalties imposed under specified Federal law.

Establishes inspection, entry, and recordkeeping requirements for vessels and facilities. Authorizes the Administrator of EPA or Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating to conduct such inspections.

Provides for civil enforcement by the Attorney General of orders to protect the public health, welfare, or environment because of an actual or threatened discharge.

Title V: Prince William Sound Provisions - Directs the Secretary to Commerce to establish a Prince William Sound Oil Spill Recovery Institute, to be administered through the Prince William Sound Science and Technology Institute, Cordova, Alaska. Requires the Institute to research the best available techniques for recovering oil spills. Establishes an Advisory Board to determine Institute policies. Requires the Advisory Board to set up a Scientific and Technical Committee.

Oil Terminal and Oil Tanker Environmental Oversight and Monitoring Act of 1990 - Establishes two Oil Terminal and Oil Tanker Environmental Oversight and Monitoring Demonstration Programs in Alaska, one for Prince William Sound and one for Cook Inlet. Prohibits such Programs from suing anyone.

Establishes an Oil Terminal Facilities and Oil Tanker Operations Association for each Program which shall review operation and maintenance policies of the oil terminal facilities and oil tankers in their respective vicinities. Permits the Secretary of Transportation to name an existing nonprofit organization as an Association.

Establishes a Regional Citizens' Advisory Council for each Program to advise the appropriate Association on policies, permits, and site-specific regulations and to monitor environmental impacts of terminal and tanker operations. Authorizes each Council to conduct its own scientific research and to review any research required on behalf of operators.

Requires each Council to establish a standing: (1) Terminal and Oil Tanker Operations and Environmental Monitoring Committee to manage comprehensive monitoring programs; and (2) technical Oil Spill Committee to assess preventive and clean-up measures.

Requires Federal agencies to consult with the appropriate Council before taking action on all permits, site-specific regulations, and related matters.

Requires terminal and tanker owners and operators to fund the Program up to certain amounts. Makes approval of owner and operator contingency plans effective only so long as such funding is provided.

Requires each Association and Council to report to the President and the Congress on its activities within 36 months of enactment of this Act. Requires the General Accounting Office to report to the President and the Congress on the handling of funds and the effectiveness of demonstration programs under the two Programs.

Directs the Secretary of Transportation to install and ensure operation of an automated navigation light on or next to Bligh Reef, Prince William Sound, Alaska, capable of giving long-range warning of the reef's location.

Directs the Secretary to: (1) operate such additional equipment, train such personnel, and issue such regulations as are necessary to increase the range of the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) system in the Port of Valdez to track the locations and movements of oil tankers transiting Prince William Sound and to sound an alarm when such tankers depart from designated routes; and (2) report to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries on the feasibility and desirability of instituting positive control by the Coast Guard on movements of such tankers with the use of the VTS system, telecommunications, and satellite-linked transmitters.

Requires the response plan of any vessel operating in Prince William Sound, and any facility permitted under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act, to provide for: (1) pre-positioned oil spill containment and removal equipment within the Prince William Sound boundaries; (2) establishment of an oil spill removal organization at appropriate locations in the Sound; (3) training of local residents in oil removal techniques; (4) semi-annual practice exercises; and (5) periodic testing and certification of equipment.

Provides for funding of specified activities under this title.

Bars from Prince William Sound any tank vessels that have spilled over 1,000,000 gallons of oil into the marine environment after March 22, 1989.

Title VI: Miscellaneous - Provides for funding of this Act.

Outer Banks Protection Act - Prohibits oil and gas leasing, exploration, and development on any lands of the Outer Continental Shelf offshore North Carolina until the later of: (1) October 1, 1991; or (2) 45 days of continuous session of Congress after the Secretary of the Interior certifies that he or she has sufficient information to carry out responsibilities for the area.

Requires the Secretary to undertake ecological, socioeconomic, oceanological, and other environmental studies with respect to oil and gas leasing in the area.

Establishes an Environmental Sciences Review Panel to advise the Secretary on the adequacy of available information. Terminates the Panel after a report to the Secretary.

Authorizes appropriations for the Outer Banks Protection Act.

Amends the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to direct the Secretary to prevent the harmful effects of unrestrained competitive production of hydrocarbons from a common hydrocarbon-bearing area underlying the Federal and State boundary. Exempts from such requirement the West Delta Field offshore of Louisiana.

Authorizes appropriations to compensate the State of Louisiana and its lessees for net drainage of oil and gas resources as determined in a certain 1989 factfinding study.

Title VII: Oil Pollution Research and Development Program - Establishes an Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research to coordinate a comprehensive program of oil pollution research, technology development, and demonstration among the Federal agencies, in cooperation with private, State, and foreign entities. Requires the Committee to submit to Congress an oil pollution research and technology plan. Directs the Committee Chairman, through the Department of Transportation, to contract with the National Academy of Sciences for Advice on such plan.

Requires the Committee to coordinate the establishment, by the agencies represented on it, of an oil pollution research and development program into innovative technologies, technology evaluation, oil pollution effects, and the use of geographic and vessel response simulation models. Requires such agencies to ensure the long-term use of the Oil and Hazardous Materials Simulated Environmental Test Tank (OHMSETT) Research Center, New Jersey, for oil pollution technology testing. Requires the Committee to coordinate a program of competitive grants to universities and research institutions for oil pollution research. Provides funding for such grants.

Directs the Coast Guard to conduct three port oil pollution minimization demonstration projects with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, and the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Requires the Interagency Committee to coordinate its research with that of other nations and foreign research entities.

Requires the Committee Chairman to submit biennial reports to the Congress.

Provides funding for this title for FY 1991 through 1995.

Title VIII: Trans-Alaska Pipeline System - Trans-Alaska Pipeline System Reform Act of 1990 - Subtitle A: Improvements to Trans-Alaska Pipeline System - Amends the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act to exempt the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) from the liability regime established by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 for similar facilities. Makes the holder of the pipeline right-of-way strictly liable for all removal costs and strictly liable for up to $350,000,000 for damages in connection with activities in the vicinity of the right-of-way. Limits the defense to strict liability to a finding that damages were caused solely by government negligence.

Requires the trustees of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Liability Fund (TAPS Fund) to reserve in the Fund: (1) amounts necessary to pay claims against it; and (2) administrative expenses reasonably necessary and incidental to claims payments. Requires the trustees to dispose of the balance in the TAPS Fund after reservation by: (1) rebating a pro-rata share to Alaska for its contributions as an oil owner; and (2) transferring the remainder to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

Includes among damages the net loss of tax or other State and municipal revenues, as well as the net cost of increased public services during or after removal activities.

Requires the TAPS Fund to pay claims if a vessel owner or operator has not done so within 90 days after filing. Subrogates the Fund to all recovery rights of the claimant paid. Relieves present and former trustees of the Fund from any liability other than for gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Establishes a Presidential Task Force on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System to audit TAPS and make recommendations to the President, the Congress, and the Governor of Alaska. Provides for public comment on the Task Force's draft report. Requires a final report, followed by a report by the President to the Congress and the Governor on measures that will be taken to implement Task Force recommendations. Earmarks funds for the Task Force.

Subtitle B: Penalties - Amends the Outer Continenal Shelf Lands Act to increase from $10,000 to $20,000 per day the administrative penalties for violation of the Act. Requires the Secretary of the Interior to adjust such amount for inflation at least once every three years.

Amends the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act to require the Secretary to impose a civil penalty of at least $1,000 per barrel of oil spilled in transit to or through TAPS, including handling at the terminal facilities. Prohibits such a penalty, however, if Federal penalties have already been imposed under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

Subtitle C: Provisions Applicable to Alaska Natives - Amends the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act to deem Alaska Native corporations, solely for purposes of bringing claims arising from the discharge of oil, to have full title to land validly selected under the Act as of March 23, 1989.

Requires the Secretary of the Interior to study and report to the Congress on the issues of recovery of damages, contingency plans, and coordinated actions in the event of an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean.

Calls upon the Secretary of State to negotiate with the Foreign Minister of Canada about a treaty addressing such issues.

Title IX: Amendments to Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, Etc. - Amends the Internal Revenue Code with respect to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Increases the Fund's borrowing limit from $500,000,000 to $1,000,000,000 in the aggregate.

Limits the use of the Fund to expenditures enumerated in this Act.

Raises the per-incident expenditure limits from $500,000,000 to $1,000,000,000, and the per-incident limit on natural resource damages payments from $250,000,000 to $500,000,000. Requires deposit in the Fund of any excess natural resources damages, certain penalties, and specified amounts transferred from the TAPS Fund.

Restricts authority to obligate the Fund to Federal officials in all cases. Subjects the standard for evaluating State removal costs to the National Contingency Plan.

Repeals authority to transfer amounts into the Fund from the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Liability Fund only to the extent that administrators of the latter determine that the amounts are not needed to satisfy claims against the latter.

Allows application on an affiliated group basis of the credit against the environmental tax on oil for the portion attributable to the oil spill rate.