Oil Sands and the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund: The Definition of 'Oil' and Related Issues for Congress [January 22, 2015]   [open pdf - 410KB]

"Imports of crude oil derived from Canadian oil sands have increased substantially in recent years, and some project further increases in the future. Recent pipeline oil spills, including the 2010 Enbridge spill in Michigan and the 2013 ExxonMobil spill in Arkansas, have involved this material and have generated interest from policy makers and a variety of stakeholders. The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) provides an immediate source of federal funding to respond to oil spills in a timely manner. Monies from the OSLTF can be used to respond to a wide variety of oil types, including oil sands-derived crude oils. The OSLTF is primarily financed by an 8-cents per-barrel tax on domestic crude oil and imported crude oil and petroleum products. In the context of the per-barrel OSLTF tax provision, a 1980 House committee report stated: 'the term crude oil does not include synthetic petroleum, e.g., shale oil, liquids from coal, tar sands, or biomass, or refined oil.' […] If Congress were to explicitly include oil sands-derived crude oils within the scope of the per-barrel OSLTF tax, the revenue supporting the OSLTF would likely increase. Over the last five fiscal years, this tax has generated, on average, $495 million per year. Based on import data of Canadian oil sands-derived crude oil, the tax would have increased by approximately $41 million in 2013, assuming the IRS was not collecting the tax for these materials in that year."

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CRS Report for Congress, R43128
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