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Oil Pollution Act (OPA)

The objective of the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) is to streamline and strengthen EPA’s ability to prevent and respond to catastrophic oil spills. OPA addresses oil pollution liability for the discharge of oil from a vessel or facility into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. OPA also addresses spill damage to the Prince William Sound and oil pollution research and development.

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Related topics
Emergency Planning and Response
Oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures (SPCC) Program

Related publications from the Ag Center
Emergency Planning and Response

Text of law 
Oil Pollution Act  Exit EPA

More information from EPA 
National Contingency Plan
Oil Spill Program

More information from states Exit EPA
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) - Environmental Laws Affecting State Agriculture
EZregs - University of Illinois Extension Web site that identifies environmental regulations that pertain to specific agricultural and horticultural operations and practices in Illinois.

Oil Pollution Act compliance and enforcement
OPA Clean Up Policies and Guidance
Clean Water Act National Enforcement Programs
Multimedia Enforcement Division


Summary of Key Provisions of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990

 
Section 1002(a) Provides that the responsible party for a vessel or facility from which oil is discharged, or which poses a substantial threat of a discharge, is liable for: (1) certain specified damages resulting from the discharged oil; and (2) removal costs incurred in a manner consistent with the National Contingency Plan (NCP).

Section 1002(c) Exceptions to the CWA liability provisions include: (1) discharges of oil authorized by a permit under Federal, State, or local law; (2) discharges of oil from a public vessel; or (3) discharges of oil from onshore facilities covered by the liability provisions of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act.

Section 1002(d) Provides that if a responsible party can establish that the removal costs and damages resulting from an incident were caused solely by an act or omission by a third party, the third party will be held liable for such costs and damages.

Section 1004 The liability for tank vessels larger than 3,000 gross tons is increased to $1,200 per gross ton or $10 million, whichever is greater. Responsible parties at onshore facilities and deepwater ports are liable for up to $350 million per spill; holders of leases or permits for offshore facilities, except deepwater ports, are liable for up to $75 million per spill, plus removal costs. The Federal government has the authority to adjust, by regulation, the $350 million liability limit established for onshore facilities.

Section 1016 Offshore facilities are required to maintain evidence of financial responsibility of $150 million and vessels and deepwater ports must provide evidence of financial responsibility up to the maximum applicable liability amount. Claims for removal costs and damages may be asserted directly against the guarantor providing evidence of financial responsibility.

Section 1018(a) The Clean Water Act does not preempt State Law. States may impose additional liability (including unlimited liability), funding mechanisms, requirements for removal actions, and fines and penalties for responsible parties.

Section 1019 States have the authority to enforce, on the navigable waters of the State, OPA requirements for evidence of financial responsibility. States are also given access to Federal funds (up to $250,000 per incident) for immediate removal, mitigation, or prevention of a discharge, and may be reimbursed by the Trust fund for removal and monitoring costs incurred during oil spill response and cleanup efforts that are consistent with the National Contingency Plan (NCP).

Section 4202 Strengthens planning and prevention activities by: (1) providing for the establishment of spill contingency plans for all areas of the U.S. (2) mandating the development of response plans for individual tank vessels and certain facilities for responding to a worst case discharge or a substantial threat of such a discharge; and (3) providing requirements for spill removal equipment and periodic inspections.

Section 4301(a) and (c) The fine for failing to notify the appropriate Federal agency of a discharge is increased from a maximum of $10,000 to a maximum of $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for an organization. The maximum prison term is also increased from one year to five years. The penalties for violations have a maximum of $250,000 and 15 years in prison. 

Section 4301(b) Civil penalties are authorized at $25,000 for each day of violation or $1,000 per barrel of oil discharged. Failure to comply with a Federal removal order can result in civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each day of violation.

Section 9001(a) Amends the Internal Revenue Act of 1986 to consolidate funds established under other statutes and to increase permitted levels of expenditures. Penalties and funds established under several laws are consolidated, and the Trust Fund borrowing limit is increased from $500 million to $1 billion.

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