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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA):Liability of Responsible Parties

James E. Nichols
Law Clerk

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) establishes a framework that addresses the liability of responsible parties in connection with the discharge of oil into the navigable waters of the United States, adjoining shorelines, or the exclusive economic zone. Among other provisions, OPA limits certain liabilities of a responsible party in connection with discharges of oil into such areas. The liability limitations established by OPA are currently the subject of significant congressional interest in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A responsible party is strictly liable for removal costs plus damages resulting from an oil spill incident under OPA. A responsible party's liability under OPA is confined to specific categories of damages. Pursuant to OPA, the total liability for damages in connection with an oil spill is limited based on the type of vessel or facility involved, and the amount of oil discharged. OPA provides limited defenses which, if applicable, allow a responsible party to discharge its liability to persons injured by a discharge of oil into the navigable waters of the United States, adjoining shorelines, or the exclusive economic zone.

Claims for removal costs and certain damages must, with limited exception, be presented directly to the responsible party. In the event that a claim for removal costs or certain damages is not paid by the responsible party within 90 days, a claimant may present such a claim directly to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund or file suit in court. OPA and its regulations establish procedures for recovering removal costs and damages against the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

This report addresses liability under OPA for removal costs and damages, and the basic procedure for recovering removal costs and damages from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund in the event that the responsible party fails to settle such claims.

Date of Report: June 2, 2010
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R41266
Price: $29.95

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