Following a letter to the White House last week on deepwater drilling by Cuba, and expressing concerns over deepwater drilling by foreign governments during a Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing, Congressman David Rivera (FL-25) filed the Foreign Oil Spill Liability Act of 2011 on Friday.
The bill amends the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to hold the owner or operator of a foreign offshore unit liable for cleanup and compensation costs in the event of a foreign oil spill that affects American waters and shores.
Under current law, in the case of a foreign oil spill that reaches U.S. waters and shores, cleanup and compensation costs are paid for by the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The trust fund cap is limited to $1 billion per incident with a $150 million cap within it for response. The only existing recourse is the Attorney General's authority to sue the responsible foreign party for reimbursement to the fund, but nothing beyond that. Taxpayers and the affected states would be responsible for paying the difference in cleanup and compensation costs.
In the event that the foreign oil spill originates from a designated State Sponsor of Terrorism, Congressman Rivera's bill calls for the liability cap and penalties to be tripled. Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are currently designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism.
"Foreign oil spills could have a detrimental effect on state and local economies, hurting American businesses and costing American jobs," Congressman Rivera said. "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. 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.
"This bill also seeks to implement stiffer liability and penalties on the responsible party if the oil spill originates in the waters of a State Sponsor of Terrorism. 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. 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," Congressman Rivera concluded.