When oil spills occur in U.S. waters, federal law places primary liability on the vessel owner or operator -- that is, the responsible party -- up to a statutory limit. As a supplement to this "polluter pays" approach, a federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund administered by the Coast Guard pays for costs when a responsible party does not or cannot pay. This book is based on a GAO report on oil spill costs and select program updates on the recent San Francisco spill. Specifically, it answers three questions: (1) How many major spills (i.e., at least $1 million) have occurred since 1990, and what is their total cost? (2) What factors affect the cost of spills? and (3) What are the implications of major oil spills for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund?
Preface; Summary; Location Impacts Costs in Different Ways; Type of Oil Spilled Impacts the Extent of the Response Effort and the Amount of Damage; Fund Has Been Able to Cover Costs Not Paid by Responsible Parties, but Risk Remain; Further Attention to Limits of Liability Is Needed; Some Recent Adjustments to Liability Limits Do Not Reflect the Cost of Major Spills; Liability Limits Have Not Been Adjusted for Inflation; Certification of Compliance with the New Liability Limits Is Not in Place; Other Challenges Could Also Affect the Fund's Condition; Concluding Observations; Index.