Upping the Ante in the Oil Industry: Why Unlimited Liability for Oil Companies Will Deal America a Bad Beat
Primarily addresses whether unlimited liability in the oil industry is the appropriate remedy to counteract the deficient liability limits currently in place under the Oil Pollution Act. In order to provide a framework for understanding this topic, this Comment begins with a history of oil spill legislation in the United States. Accordingly, Part II traces the development of liability in connection with discharges of hazardous substances in United States waters. Part III describes the circumstances leading to the development of America's first comprehensive oil spill legislation and presents the specific provisions of that legislation which relate to compensation of injured parties. Part IV addresses Senate Bill 3305, also referred to as the "Big Oil Bailout Prevention Unlimited Liability Act of 2010," and the circumstances leading to its proposal. Part V sets forth the arguments in the current debate regarding the limits on liability available to "responsible parties" in the event of an oil spill. Part VI concludes that Congress should reject the unlimited liability scheme proposed by Senate Bill 3305 because the prospective destruction that unrestrained liability in the oil industry would wage on the American oil industry, and ultimately on the United States' environment and economy, substantially outweighs the benefits of a system that ensures that the polluter pays.