Oil Pollution Act of 1990: Opening a New Era in Federal and Texas Regulation of Oil Spill Prevention, Containment and Cleanup, and Liability
Ruhl, J. B.
Jewell, Michael J.
This article assesses Congress' effort, through enactment of OPA, to meet the goals it stated in 1989. Part II provides an overview of the fragmented" condition of pre-OPA federal law addressing oil spills and an examination of the deficiencies Congress believed existed in that body of law. An understanding of those perceived deficiencies is essential for interpreting OPA. Part III surveys the basic features of OPA, particularly its liability provisions. It concludes that, although OPA surely achieves a major overhaul of federal oil spill law, it is basically in the same boat. Part IV examines the response of the states to OPA, focusing on recent developments in Texas. OPA clearly intends for states to remain an integral part of national oil spill response readiness. Recent developments in the Texas Legislature and the manner in which Texas environmental agencies implement these initiatives will determine how big a role Texas will play. The article concludes by predicting the effect of OPA on the potential oil spill liabilities faced by the petroleum production and transportation industry. Taken alone, the liability terms of OPA seem straightforward. However, much has changed in the world of environmental law since the laws which OPA amended were first enacted. Placed in the current day context, OPA's liability impact could spread far beyond the primary production and transportation functions. It could affect marketers, ship builders, lenders, insurers, and other ancillary (but essential) participants in the petroleum business. Moreover, OPA leaves for future consideration lurking issues which should be of utmost concern to anyone even remotely touched by OPA.