Coast Guard announces interim rule increasing limits of liability under Oil Pollution Act of 1990

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Coast Guard announced Wednesday the publication of an interim rule that adjusts limits of liability for vessels and deepwater ports under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

The interim rule, effective July 31, 2009, increases the current OPA 90 limits of liability for vessels and deepwater ports to reflect significant increases in the Consumer Price Index since the limits were amended by the Delaware River Protection Act of 2006. The interim rule also increases the current OPA 90 limit of liability for the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port to reflect Consumer Price Index increases since the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port limit was established by regulation in 1995.

The interim rule amends Title 33, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 138, Subpart B. The proposal for this rulemaking (73 FR 54997) was published Sept. 24, 2008. A final rule will be published following the close of the public comment period Aug. 31, 2009. The public may view the interim rule in the Federal Register online at www.gpoaccess.gov/fr.

The amendments also establish the methodology for appropriate future increases to liability limits to reflect significant increases in the Consumer Price Index. Such increases prevent the real value of limits of liability from depreciating over time from inflation, preserving the polluter pays principle embodied by OPA 90.

The interim rule clarifies that OPA 90, single-hull, tank vessel limits of liability apply only to single-hull tank vessels tha carry, or are constructed or adapted to carry, oil in bulk as cargo or cargo residue. The clarification was not discussed in the proposal for the rulemaking and is needed to ensure that the rule is consistent with the OPA 90 statutory scheme.

The Coast Guard encourages the public to participate in this rulemaking by submitting comments and related materials concerning the single-hull tank vessel limit of liability clarification to the docket by Aug. 31, 2009, at www.regulations.gov, docket number: USCG-2008-0007. All comments received will be posted without change.

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