Commerce Committee Chairman Rockefeller Statement on Introduction of Oil Spill Response and Energy Jobs Plan

Plan Includes Two Rockefeller Bills to Prevent and Respond to Future Oil Spills and Protect Workers and Families

July 28, 2010

USCG Deep Horizon ResponseWASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced a legislative package on the targeted oil spill response and clean energy jobs plan.

Two sections of Senator Reid’s legislation include bills authored by Chairman Rockefeller: the Securing Health for Ocean Resources and Environment Act (SHORE Act) and the Fairness in Admiralty and Maritime Law Act (FAMLA).

Chairman Rockefeller’s statement follows:

“The Gulf oil spill has upended the lives of millions of Americans, and done incalculable damage to our economy and fragile ecosystems. We must do all we can to respond to and prevent a disaster like this from ever happening again, and to hold companies fully accountable for the harm they have caused,” Chairman Rockefeller said.

“The two bills I’ve introduced—the SHORE Act and the Fairness in Admiralty and Maritime Law Act will do just that. The SHORE Act will greatly improve the ability of NOAA, the Coast Guard, and the coastal States to prevent and respond to oil spills by giving them the resources, authority, and expertise they need. The Fairness in Admiralty and Maritime Law Act will substantially improve the way victims and their loved ones are treated when an injury happens at sea. I applaud Senator Reid’s leadership on these critical issues.”

The SHORE Act and FAMLA are the result of Chairman Rockefeller and the Commerce Committee’s ongoing work related to the Gulf oil spill.

Key provisions of FAMLA included in Senator Reid’s oil spill response and energy jobs package:

Sections of Senator Reid’s legislation that include Chairman Rockefeller’s Fairness in Admiralty and Maritime Law Act, would simply grant victims injured or killed offshore parity with those injured or killed onshore. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Amend the Death on High Seas Act and Jones Act to permit the families those killed on the high seas to recover non-pecuniary damages, such as loss of care, comfort or companionship. Current law limits recoverable damages to the lost wages of the deceased;
  • Amend the outdated Limitation on Liability Act to ensure that those responsible for catastrophic oil spills cannot escape financial responsibility; and
  • Provide that the amount of punitive damages awarded in a maritime civil action need not be limited to the amount of compensatory damages awarded in that action.

A section-by-section of FAMLA can be found here.

Key provisions of the SHORE Act included in Senator Reid’s oil spill response and energy jobs package would: 

  • Improve NOAA’s spill response, containment and prevention capacity;
  • Better define coordination between federal and state response activities; and between NOAA, the Coast Guard, and the Department of Interior;
  • Clarify existing authority for NOAA to receive funds from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) for its mandates under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA);
  • Double the amount the Coast Guard may receive from the OSLTF each year, with a percentage dedicated toward oil spill research and development;
  • Invest in a damage assessment and restoration revolving fund;
  • Mandate improvements in the frequency and comprehensiveness of Coast Guard safety inspections and certification requirements;
  • Require prompt posting by Coast Guard Unified Command of oil spill Incident Action Plans on a publicly accessible website;
  • Strengthen coastal state oil spill planning and response; and
  • Direct NOAA to develop a long term monitoring and research program for the Gulf of Mexico.

A section-by-section and full text of the SHORE Act can be found here.