A proposal from two Florida congressmen to ensure that Americans aren’t stuck holding the bill when foreign oil spills move into American waters became law as President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week.
With other nations expanding offshore drilling operations, U.S. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., teamed up with then U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., to bring out the “Foreign Spill Protection Act" back in 2015. While the bill passed the House in April 2016 without opposition, the measure went nowhere in the Senate. When they brought out the proposal, the congressmen noted that, back in 2012, a leading Mexican official said his nation would have problems dealing with offshore oil spills while the Bahamas are currently expanding their own drilling. Cuba is also looking at offshore operations.
Curbelo brought the bill back at the start of the year, this time with U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., acting as the chief co-sponsor. Their proposal changes the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), which was passed in 1990, to ensure costs from foreign oil spills that impact American waters will be incurred by the responsible party. Curbelo’s and Soto’s proposal also ensures the responsible party for these type of spills would be held accountable by the Clean Water Act. As the law stood, responsible parties would only face up to $1 billion in damages for oil spills that start in other countries waters and, eventually, impact American waters.
“I’m proud of the passage of the Foreign Spill Protection Act I introduced earlier this year,” Curbelo said after Trump signed the NDAA this week. “This forward-looking legislation anticipates the risks of a foreign-based oil spill impacting American waters and coastlines, ensuring foreign entities responsible for an oil spill affecting U.S. waters and our coastline are also responsible for all cleanup costs, regardless of where the spill took place. This will incentivize all foreign offshore producers to implement the safest technologies and practices to reduce the likelihood of a major spill – a win for coastal communities and the small businesses and families that depend on the sea.”
“The passage of this robust NDAA bill, including our Foreign Spill Protection Act, is a testament of Congress coming together to prioritize the safety and protection of America’s coastal areas,” Soto said. “I am proud to support this bill that would hold foreign oil drilling companies fully responsible for spills near our shores, including Florida’s coasts.
“The reality is, we’re allowing an increasing number of countries to drill into our shores, many who do not follow the same safety protocols or standards as we do in the United States –they must be placed under higher scrutiny,” Soto added. “My colleague Rep. Curbelo and I will continue working on protecting our beautiful beaches and coastal areas.”
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkoski, R-Ak., and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., sponsored the Senate version of the bill.