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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oil Spill Legislation in the 111th Congress

Jonathan L. Ramseur
Specialist in Environmental Policy

This report summarizes provisions of selected legislation—enacted and proposed—that addresses oil spill policy issues raised after the April 20, 2010, explosion and resulting oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 2010 Gulf oil spill has generated considerable interest in oil spill issues. The House of Representatives has conducted at least 33 hearings in 10 committees. The Senate has conducted at least 30 hearings in eight committees. Members have introduced over 150 legislative proposals that have included one or more provisions that would affect oil spill policy.

As of the date of this report, President Obama has signed three bills into law that include oil spill provisions. Provisions in these bills are generally short-term matters that will not have a lasting impact on oil spill governance. However, H.R. 3619, the Coast Guard Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011, which the President signed October 15, 2010 (P.L. 111-281), includes more substantial changes.

In addition to the enacted legislation, the House has passed several bills, including H.R. 3534, the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act (CLEAR Act), that include multiple oil spill policy provisions. The Senate has comparable bills on its Legislative Calendar, but has not voted on their passage.

This report focuses primarily on oil spill policy matters that concern prevention, preparedness, response, and the liability and compensation framework. For the most part, the underlying statutes for these provisions are found in either the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-380; 33 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.) or the Clean Water Act and its amendments (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.). In general, this report does not address legislation that would alter the organizational structure of the former Minerals Management Service (MMS) or legislation that would affect the offshore leasing process.

Date of Report: November 3, 2010
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R41453
Price: $29.95

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