Liability and Compensation Issues Raised by the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill [March 11, 2011] [open pdf - 288KB]
From the Document: "The 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident produced the largest oil spill that has occurred in U.S. waters, releasing more than 200 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico. BP has estimated the combined oil spill costs--cleanup activities, natural resource and economic damages, potential Clean Water Act (CWA) penalties, and other obligations--will be approximately $41 billion. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill raised many issues for policymakers, including the ability of the existing oil spill liability and compensation framework to respond to a catastrophic spill. This framework determines (1) who is responsible for paying for oil spill cleanup costs and the economic and natural resource damages from an oil spill; (2) how these costs and damages are defined (i.e., what is covered?); and (3) the degree to which, and conditions in which, the costs and damages are limited and/or shared by other parties, including general taxpayers. The existing framework includes a combination of elements that distribute the costs of an oil spill between the responsible party (or parties) and the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF), which is largely financed through a per-barrel tax on domestic and imported oil. Responsible parties are liable up to their liability caps (if applicable); the trust fund covers costs above liability limits up to a per-incident cap of $1 billion."
CRS Report for Congress, R41679