Summary: S.1730 — 104th Congress (1995-1996)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Reported to Senate with amendment(s) (06/26/1996)


Title I: Enhancement of Oil Spill Prevention

Title II: Improvement of Responses to Oil Spills

Title III: Tailoring of Offshore Facility Financial

Responsibility Requirements to Oil Spill Risks

Title IV: Miscellaneous Technical Amendments

Oil Spill Prevention and Response Improvement Act - Title I: Enhancement of Oil Spill Prevention - Amends the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) to deem effective as final rules, if they do not become effective by specified dates, certain rules proposed by the Secretary of Transportation regarding operational and structural standards applicable to tank vessels over 5,000 gross tons without double hulls, except a provision in the proposed structural standard rule which the Secretary may find would be likely to increase the risks of oil pollution. Adds provisions regarding operational safety of single-hull barges and minimum under-keel clearances of tank vessels without double bottoms for entering or departing port and when operating in an inland or coastal waterway. Permits the Secretary to include these provisions in the final structural standards rule.

(Sec. 102) Makes applicable otherwise inapplicable limitations of liability, where the incident was proximately caused by a violation of a Federal safety, construction, or operating regulation, to a responsible party in the case of a vessel that is either: (1) equipped with a double hull along the entire length of the vessel, including fuel oil tanks, as of enactment of this Act; or (2) one that is so equipped and replacing a single-hulled vessel at least five years prior to the required retirement date.

(Sec. 103) Requires the Secretary to issue and place in effect a final rule on navigation safety equipment for towing vessels by September 30, 1996. Deems effective as a final rule, if one does not become effective by such date, a proposed rule on such equipment. Directs the Secretary to require by rule the following with respect to towing vessels: (1) a fire suppression system or fire suppression equipment on board; (2) an electronic position fixing device on board; and (3) assurance that regular tests and inspections of equipment are conducted and recorded.

(Sec. 104) Requires a study with the National Research Council into how the designation of shipping lanes and waters through which tankers transport oil affects the risk of an oil spill. Directs the Army Corps of Engineers to review a report on Rhode Island waterway dredging and report to the Congress on its feasibility.

Directs the Secretary to include in oil and hazardous material lighterage regulations requirements of environmental protection that is as substantial as is economically and technologically feasible.

Title II: Improvement of Responses to Oil Spills - Amends OPA to provide, with respect to oil pollution damages resulting from loss of profits or earning capacity, that: (1) recovery may be partial; and (2) payment of interim, short-term damages representing less than the full amount to which the claimant may be entitled does not preclude recovery of damages not reflected in the paid or settled partial claim. Makes related revisions to procedures for making claims, advertising, and subrogation.

(Sec. 202) Amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) to require the President to issue guidance for Area Committees (under the oil and hazardous substance National Response System) for use in advance planning and decision making regarding closing and reopening of fishing grounds. Modifies provisions concerning State and local cooperation and the contents of Area Contingency Plans to include these considerations.

(Sec. 203) Adds to exceptions from appropriation Act limitations amounts made available from the Fund for conducting (current law refers to "initiation") the assessment of natural resources damages. Increases the amount available for such assessments.

(Sec. 204) Makes the Fund available for: (1) payment of costs to mitigate or avoid ecological injury; and (2) plugging of idle oil wells that pose a substantial safety or environmental risk under a cost-sharing agreement with the State in which the well is located. Amends FWPCA to require Area Contingency Plans to compile lists of expert local scientists to provide information or participate in a scientific support team convened in response to an oil spill. Amends OPA to require the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to establish a process to name such a team, all or part of which may be convened in response to a spill.

Requires the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research to disseminate and compile information on previous spills. Amends FWPCA to require the National Response Unit to maintain and keep in a form readily transmittable to response teams information on the environmental effects of various types of spills and how best to mitigate them.

(Sec. 205) Revises FWPCA standards for compliance by owners or operators cooperating in removal actions to allow deviation from the response plan only if this would result in a more expeditious or effective response.

Title III: Tailoring of Offshore Facility Financial Responsibility Requirements to Oil Spill Risks - Amends OPA to revise evidence of financial responsibility requirements (EFR) applicable to offshore facilities (other than deepwater ports) to: (1) provide distinctions between facilities located seaward ("seaward facilities") and those located landward ("landward facilities") of a State's seaward boundary; (2) describe features of covered facilities, including that they have a worst case discharge potential of more than 1,000 barrels of oil; (3) replace the blanket $150 million EFR with $35 million and $10 million amounts for seaward facilities and landward facilities, respectively, allowing imposition of an amount not exceeding the greater amount if the President determines this to be justified by the risks posed; and (4) exempt from applicability of EFR a landward facility subject to State requirements comparable in manner to, and equal to or greater in amount than, those of this Act.

Title IV: Miscellaneous Technical Amendments - Makes technical amendments.