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Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund

Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the owner or operator of a facility from which oil is discharged (responsible party) is liable for the costs associated with the:

  • containment,
  • cleanup, and
  • damages resulting from the spill.

EPA's first priority is to ensure that responsible parties pay to clean up their own oil releases. However, when the responsible party is unknown or refuses to pay, funds from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund can be used to cover the cost of removal or damages.

The primary source of revenue for the fund is a five-cents per barrel fee on imported and domestic oil. Collection of this fee ceased on December 31, 1994, due to a "sunset" provision in the law. Other revenue sources for the fund include:

  • interest on the fund,
  • cost recovery from the parties responsible for the spills, and
  • any fines or civil penalties collected.

The Fund is administered by the U.S. Coast Guard's National Pollution Funds Center.

The Fund can provide up to $1 billion for any one oil pollution incident, including up to $500 million for the initiation of natural resource damage assessments and claims in connection with any single incident. The main uses of Fund expenditures are:

  • state access for removal actions;
  • payments to federal, state, and Indian tribe trustees to carry out natural resource damage assessments and restorations;
  • payment of claims for uncompensated removal costs and damages; and
  • research and development and other specific appropriations.

More information about this program is available from the National Pollution Funds Center.