Paul S. Edelman


In response to several major oil spills, including the Exxon Valdez incident in 1989, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) was signed into law. The author reviews responses to various oil spills, and the inadequacy of legislation applicable to such responses prior to the OPA. This article reviews various sections of the OPA and the breadth of its coverage. The author points out that this new legislation expands liability with respect to oil spills, providing an incentive to potentially responsible tanker owners to take stronger measures to avoid such spills. However, as the author explains, the OPA may create as many problems as it solves. For example, insurers may have to provide new insurance coverage due to larger exposure under the OPA, or even stop providing such insurance altogether. The OPA requires that barges be double hulled, which is extremely costly to install and may be the cause of more explosions or extensive leaks than single hulls. The author also opines that the increased liability under the OPA may deter foreign oil importers from using the ports of the United States.