BOEM proposes 78% increase in offshore oil spill liability limit

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management proposed a 78% increase in the offshore oil spill liability limit under the 1990 Oil Pollution Act to $133.65 million from $75 million. The proposed change was the first since the law was enacted and matches the increase in inflation since then, said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau.

The proposal, which appears in the Feb. 24 Federal Register, also would establish adjustments every 3 years to cover changes in inflation under the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index.

The liability limit had not been changed since OPA 90 became law. “This adjustment helps to preserve the deterrent effect and the ‘polluter pays’ principle embodied in the law,” Beaudreau said.

He said it would apply to offshore oil facilities in federal and state waters, and is consistent with recommendations from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and other studies that called for a statutory increase in the limit of liability.

It also is the maximum increase BOEM can implement without legislation, Beaudreau added.

BOEM will accept comments on the proposed increase until Mar. 26. DOI limited comments to 30 days because it did not anticipate opposition to the proposed increase, the notice said.

A spokesman for US Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) called the proposal “a good signal that they are adjusting for inflation,” but added that the senator has introduced legislation to eliminate the offshore oil spill liability limit.

“Liability is protection, not a deterrent,” the spokesman said, adding, “Just ask yourself whether $134 million is enough for a mess like the BP spill,” referring to the 2010 Macondo deepwater well blowout and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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