The Foreign Oil Spill Liability Act

Monday, November 7, 2011
From The Hill:

Four members of the House — including two who were born in Cuba — proposed legislation last week that would hold foreign offshore oil drilling operations accountable for all damages related to oil spills that affect U.S. waters.

The Foreign Oil Spill Liability Act, H.R. 3393, is a reaction to news that Cuba is looking to drill for oil in waters that are 90 miles off the Florida coast, which bill sponsors fear could lead to spills that harm the coast. The bill is sponsored by Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.), and co-sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Albio Sires (D-N.J.). Both Ros-Lehtinen and Sires were born in Cuba.

"This bill seeks accountability from responsible foreign parties, in the event of an oil spill that affects American waters and shores, by ensuring that they pay for all cleanup and compensation costs," Rivera said. "While the responsible party is held liable for American-sourced oil spills, there is a much lower level of responsibility for foreign-sourced spills.

"American taxpayers and state governments should not be footing the bill for cleanup and compensation costs from a foreign oil spill," he added.

Rivera says that under current law, the cost of cleaning up foreign oil spills that affect the U.S. is paid for out of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Money that goes into that fund comes from taxes on oil companies, transfers from other pollution funds, interest earned on existing funds, and cost recovery money and penalties paid by parties responsible for a spill.

Under the bill, oil spills originating in countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism are subject to triple the liability and penalty amounts, which also seems aimed at Cuba.

"The Castro regime, that has as much regard for environmental safety as it does for human rights, seeks to drill for oil less than 90 miles off the coast of Florida, posing a direct threat to our state's environment and economy," Rivera said. "While the White House and the U.S. Department of the Interior help facilitate this drilling, in possible violation of the embargo, I am sponsoring this important piece of legislation to ensure that Florida taxpayers are not made to pay for an environmental disaster caused by a terrorist regime."

Aside from Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria as also designated as state sponsors of terrorism.