Policy Documents

Oil Spill Liability: A Plan for Reform

Nicolas D. Loris, Jack Spencer, and James Jay Carafano –
August 2, 2010

Current law states that oil or gas companies do not have to pay more than $75 million in liability costs for accidents they cause—no matter how great the damages. Republicans and Democrats agree that the cap is too low. But simply raising it to another artificial level, or eliminating it entirely without other reforms, is not the easy answer, tempting as it might seem. A higher cap, or none at all, means very little as long as crucial safety, regulatory, and liability issues continue to be ignored, and public concerns are unaddressed. Government regulatory oversight is necessary, but liability insurance must be privately managed, with claims assessed and paid out by an independent administrator. Safety and preparedness measures must also be independently reviewed and approved. Above all, taxpayers must be protected from footing the liability costs for industry-caused disasters. The Heritage Foundation provides a comprehensive plan for responsible and commonsense measures to ensure offshore oil and gas safety, keeping the public informed and government bureaucracy in check.