Oil Spills in U.S. Coastal Waters: Background, Governance, and Issues for Congress [April 30, 2010] [open pdf - 376KB]
"There is some concern that the favorable U.S. spill record has resulted in a loss of experienced personnel, capable of responding quickly and effectively to a major oil spill. Prior to actions by the 109th and 110th Congresses, the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund was particularly vulnerable to a large and costly spill: Fund managers had projected the fund would be completely depleted by FY2009. Recent legislative developments have increased the oil spill liability limits and raised the tax rate that feeds into the trust fund. With these changes in effect, the most recent projection indicates that the fund will reach almost $1.5 billion by the end of FY2009 and crest $3.5 billion by FY2016. Although the trust fund is now less vulnerable to a major spill, some degree of exposure still remains, thus raising a central policy debate: How should policymakers allocate the costs associated with a major, accidental oil spill? For example, what share of costs should be borne by the responsible party (e.g., oil vessel owner/operators), the oil industry, and the general treasury? […]. This report reviews the history and trends of oil spills in the United States; identifies the legal authorities governing oil spill prevention, response, and cleanup; and examines the threats of future oil spills in U.S. coastal waters."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33705