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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Enacted and Proposed Oil Spill Legislation in the 112th Congress

Jonathan L. Ramseur
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Recent oil spills, including the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, generated an increased level of interest in oil spill legislation during the 112th Congress. This report identifies enacted and proposed legislation from the 112th Congress that pertains to oil spillrelated issues. For this report, oil spill-related issues include oil spill policy matters that concern prevention, preparedness, response, liability and compensation, and Gulf of Mexico restoration. In the context of this report, oil spill issues do not generally include matters pertaining to offshore leasing and drilling.

The 112
th Congress enacted two statutes that contain oil spill-related provisions. On January 3, 2012, the President signed P.L. 112-90 (the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011), which

  • increases civil penalties for violating safety requirements and requires automatic and remote-controlled shutoff valves on newly constructed transmission pipelines; 
  • directs the Department of Transportation to analyze leak detection systems, and after a review by Congress, issue requirements based on this analysis; and 
  • requires the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to review whether current regulations are sufficient to regulate pipelines transmitting "diluted bitumen," and analyze whether such oil presents an increased risk of release. 

On July 6, 2012, the President signed P.L. 112-141 (MAP-21), which includes a subtitle referred to as the RESTORE Act. The RESTORE Act establishes the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund in the General Treasury. Eighty percent of any administrative and civil Clean Water Act Section 311 penalties paid by responsible parties in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill will provide the revenues for the fund. Amounts in the fund will be available for expenditure without further appropriation.

The RESTORE Act distributes monies to various entities through multiple processes:

  • 35% divided equally among the five Gulf of Mexico states to be applied toward one or more of 11 designated activities; 
  • 30% provided to a newly created Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to finance ecosystem restoration activities in the Gulf Coast region; 
  • 30% disbursed by the Council to the five Gulf states, based on specific criteria: shoreline impact; oiled shoreline distance from the Deepwater Horizon rig; and coastal population. Each state must submit a plan for approval, documenting how funding will support one or more of the 11 designated activities; and 
  • 5% to support marine research and related purposes.

Date of Report: January 16, 2013
Number of Pages: 37
Order Number: R41684
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