Aftermath of BP & Exxon ValdezResearch Paper

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Oil Spill Laws

Major oil spills do not happen often. However, when they do they can wreak quite a bit of havoc. Two oil spills events that easily come to mind was the Exxon Valdez spill and the British Petroleum (BP) oil rig explosion and leak that occurred more recently. There is a litany of state and federal laws that exist and they will be identified. Also to be identified are the federal, state and local agencies that get involved if there is oil heading towards a beach or town. Who precisely would pay for the leak and the damages it creates will be identified. Lost revenues that are directly or indirectly the result of an oil spill and there would absolutely be lawsuits to that effect. In major cases, there are often funds set up using the monies of the company who runs the rig and those will be discussed as well. What a coastal city can do if/when there is a spill will be covered. There will obviously be costs associated with the above and those will be mentioned. Other concerns that are related to the above will be covered. While the federal government is the primary governmental sphere that handles the aftermath of oil spills and the damage they cause, state and local governments have an interest and an involvement as well.

Questions Answered

As noted in the introduction, the federal government has a massive amount of involvement when it comes to oil spills like the recent BP oil rig disaster and the Exxon Valdez spill before it. The main laws at the federal level that govern include the following:

The National Oil & Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan of 1968 - This was the law that established the national framework that is used to respond to oil spills of any major size and scope. This law was largely a reaction to an oil disaster known as the Torrey Canyon spill. The spill actually happened near England but it obviously reverberated in the United States (United States Code, 2015).

The Clean Water Act of 1972 - This law defined a lot of things surrounding oil spills and their aftermaths including how spills must be reported, the response to such spills and who is liable for spills when they happen (United States Code, 2015).

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act of 1973: This act was meant to cover in-land areas that could get spills due to leakages from pipelines. This law was also meant to address in-land spills that could migrate to bodies of water like lakes, streams and even the ocean (United States Code, 2015).

The Deep Port Act of 1974 -- This law was specifically to address spills that could happen in deep water. The BP spill would be an example of this since it involved the sea floor where drilling had occurred (United States Code, 2015).

The Outer Continent Shelf Lands Act Amendments of 1978 -- This did much the same thing as the Clean Water Act of 1972 but it specifically address the spills, cleanup and liability that arose from federally-controlled areas that might have drilling within them (United States Code, 2015).

The Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Act of 1979 -- This law made the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) responsible for pipeline spills (United States Code, 2015).

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 -- This law was very much an extension of the Clean Water Act. It further ensconced the federal government as the main source of response to oil spills. It also created new or enhanced regulations that oil transporting companies must follow. Perhaps the most significant was that all oil-carrying ships had to be double-hulled (United States Code, 2015).

The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2006 -- This act sought to further improve the safety surrounding pipelines and overall best practices for the same (United States Code, 2015).

Responding To Oil Spills

As already extensively noted, the federal government handles all of the particulars when it comes to oil spills. This is done under what is known as the National Response System. The federal agency responsible for responding to a spill is who quarterbacks all of this. However, it is beyond question that all relevant and affected agencies at the state and local levels will be involved. The point is that the responsible agency is the one that tells those agencies to do and when to do it. States and localities might try to branch off and do their own thing but the federal authorities are the ones in charge. As for which federal agency is responsible, that depends on where a spill occurs and the particulars involved as defined by the aforementioned Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The list of jurisdictional divisions is as follow:

Pipelines that are inland and not near a water source: Environmental Protection Agency (United States Code, 2015).

Non-Transportation Facilities on the Shore -- United States Coast Guard and the United States Department of Transportation (United States Code, 2015).

Transportation Facilities on the Shore -- United States Coast Guard and the United States Department of Transportation (United States Code, 2015).

Offshore Facilities dedicated to oil/gas Extraction -- Mineral Management Service, which is part of the United States Department of the Interior (United States Code, 2015).

Offshore Production Pipelines -- The Mineral Management Service, a division of the United States Department of the Interior (United States Code, 2015).

Offshore Pipelines that are not directly related to oil/gas movement and removal -- Office for Pipeline Safety (OPS), which is part of the United States Department of Transportation (United States Code, 2015).

While the federal government technically has jurisdiction over oil spill situations, there are state, local and non-government organizations (NGO's) that all deploy and work around the situation as well. However, the federal government would have precedence as part of any orders they give because they are the ultimately responsible party. Any regulation that is done by the federal government is presumed to be superior to any lower agency and any law that contradicts the federal standard is not valid. For example, since the federal government is in charge of immigration, the state and local government cannot legislate or otherwise act in contradiction to any federal order or law. There are some modest exceptions (e.g. recreational use of marijuana in Colorado), but this is indeed enforced much of the time. When it comes to protecting actual beaches, the party that is most in control and ruling would be the United States Coast Guard. Monitoring of the sediment and other shore material would be done by the Environmental Protection Agency. Again, some state and local agencies may go rogue and enact their own plans but the federal agencies mentioned above have the final say if there is every a contradiction. Even so, the Environmental Protection Agency does not do everything from a single level. Indeed, they do have a group of Regional Response Teams that are responsible for handling spills in their area. There are a total of eleven response teams and each team is responsible for a different part of the country and this includes all landlocked states (EPA, 2015; DOT, 2015).

Since the federal government is mostly if not entirely in charge at all times, initial funding and resources would come from United States federal tax dollars. To the point that they become involved without federal funding or permission, state or local taxpayers would at least initially foot the bill for governmental efforts at those levels. Whether or when the federal, state or local governments get reimbursed for their efforts really depends on the situation. For example, there was a very large damage fund set up in the aftermath of the British Petroleum spill and restitution was indeed extracted in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez spill. In addition to restitution funds from the offending companies that were negligent or otherwise responsible for a spill, there is also the option of litigation. Many people that receive monetary settlements from these restitution funds are then barred from "double-dipping" and then suing the offending party. However, for those that are denied money from a fund or refuse to take what they deem to be a low-ball offer, lawsuits are always a possibility and they would probably be successful for anyone that can prove damages to a sufficient degree (Nolo, 2015).

To put a finer point on the above, federal agencies are the main people in charge. State and local agencies (not to mention NGO's and any private sector businesses hired for volunteering to help with the issues) will often work at the direction and in concert with federal agencies but they may also do things on their own with pre-screening and direction from the federal government. However, the city mentioned in this assignment did not have anything in place and perhaps that should change. Some changes that could and should be made and included are numerous. First, the city government should make sure they have a lifeline to the federal agencies… [END OF PREVIEW]

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