Today, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation introduced the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund Maintenance Act of 2005. The Act will reinstate the 5 cents per barrel tax under the Oil Pollution Act to fund the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSTLF) at $3 billion. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Co-Chairman of the Commerce Committee joined Senator Stevens as an original co-sponsor.
At a Commerce Committee hearing earlier this year the Commandant of the Coast Guard testified that the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund has fallen below $1 billion and will be exhausted in 2009 if additional funds are not received. The tax expired in December of 1994 and because the Oil Pollution Act liability limits have not been adjusted since 1990, OSLTF has a disproportionately large portion of spill clean up costs.
The Fund began as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Liability Fund and was funded through a 5 cents a barrel tax collected from the oil industry on petroleum produced in or imported to the United States. The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund provides funds for expeditious oil removal and finances uncompensated damages to the environment. The OSLTF is part of the Oil Pollution Act that was created after the Exxon Valdez went aground off of the coast of Alaska.
"The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 imposed a series of new requirements to prevent a tragedy like the Exxon Valdez from ever happening again. In the unlikely event that even a small accident were to occur, the bill we have introduced today will ensure that the resources are available to mitigate any impact on the environment," said Stevens.
The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund Maintenance Act of 2005 would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to reinstate the tax of 5 cents per barrel to maintain a balance between $2 and $3 billion in the Fund.