As the daily news recognizes, the main legal issue
regarding the oil spill is BP's — and perhaps other parties'
— liability for the cleanup and any resulting damages. The main
federal statute governing liability for oil spills in water is the
Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), enacted shortly after and in response
to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989. The OPA largely replaces
the oil spill provisions in the federal Clean Water Act. When BP accepts
liability for the Gulf spill, this is the statute to which it is referring
— and the statute pursuant to which it and the Coast Guard are
seeking to first halt, and later clean up, the spill.
Offshore drilling itself, at least in federal waters,
is governed through licenses that the federal Minerals Management
Service granted pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act,
which governs oil and gas exploration and drilling on the federal
portions of the continental shelf. Finally, BP and others may be liable
under the Gulf states' tort law and property law, and perhaps individual
state statutes, for damages to fisheries, private property, and state
- Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Process - About NOAA's Damage Assessment, Remediation, & Restoration Program (DARRP) and Natural Resource Damage Assessment
Overview of the Oil Pollution Act
Web Page on Its Gulf of Mexico Spill Response
Oil Spill Home Page
- "Protecting and Restoring Natural Resources in Florida" Fact Sheet - Fact sheet from NOAA's Damage Assessment, Remediation, & Restoration Program (DARRP)
- Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (R.K.
- Legal Decisions Related to Damages - An advisory compiled by the Florida Sea Grant College Program.
Management Service's Home Page for the Outer Continental Shelf Lands
York Times, "Clarifying Questions of Liability, Cleanup, and
May 6, 2010
Coast Guard's National Pollution Funds Center