The Oil Pollution Act of 1990: A Glance in the Rearview Mirror

This Article recreates the state of oil pollution procedures and processes in 1989 and the mindset that existed among the legislators tasked with fixing a broken system. It will reveal the persons and events that shaped the single largest restructuring of pollution response in U.S. history. Finally, the Article will peek into the future and consider the impact of the Deepwater Horizon calamity on future revisions to the oil pollution response and compensation system.
It is noted that this Article is not intended to be a comprehensive review of how OPA 90 was created or the content of its provisions. That review has certainly been done countless times. This Article will consider primarily the aspects of the oil pollution statutory scheme that were broken at the time of the EXXON VALDEZ disaster, the variety of options available to lawmakers to correct those deficiencies, and whether the choices made by Congress accomplished the intended results.