OPA 90: Twenty-Five Years of Judicial Interpretation

David H. Sump | Article

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (Act) was signed into law on August 18, 1990, and with it began a new paradigm in oil pollution prevention, response, and liability. This statute has been in force for nearly twenty-five years and endured regulatory implementation, statutory amendments, executive branch interpretation, and ultimately judicial branch interpretation. The Act also survived major oil spills such as DEEPWATER HORIZON and M/V ATHOS I, which may have stressed and strained the sinews that bind the Act together. In short, the Act continues to govern the oil pollution landscape. This Article will explore whether the intricate system developed by the drafters of the Act remains intact and how judicial interpretation of the Act has strengthened the system or weakened its application.