"The United States has laws that make it illegal to harm protected wildlife. Those laws could be used to prosecute those who caused the 2010 oil spill. Perhaps the most famous of these laws is the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which provides for both criminal and civil penalites for acts that harm species listed under the act. The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) also provides for civil and criminal punishment when an action takes a marine mammal. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) makes it a crime to kill migratory birds.
"While there are endangered species and marine mammals in the area affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, it is more likely that any criminal prosecution would use the MBTA rather than the ESA or the MMPA. This is because the MBTA is a strict liability statute in relevant part, unlike the other laws. Accordingly, the prosecution does not have to show that the defendeant(s) intended to harm wildlife. The prosecution does not have to prove that the defendants knew their action(s) would lead to an oil spill to find liability. The MBTA was used to prosecute Exxon following the Exxon Valdez spill and has been used for decades to find corporations and even their employees criminally liable for the deaths of protected birds."
"On April 20, 2010, an exploratory oil well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 people and causing an oil spill that a group of federal experts has said is the worst in American history. The oil well was on a tract leased by Britisch Petroleum (BP), having obtained a lease and the relevant permits from the federal government. Under relevant federal law, federal actions that may have adverse environmental effects are requird to be reviewed for potential environmental harm under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This report will review those environmental procedures. Whilere there are additional environmental obligations imposed on Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) drilling by otehr acts, this report will not review those requirements."—Summary.
"On Thursday, July 8, 2010, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in one of the first major lawsuits resulting from the oil spill, regarding the Obama Administration's proposed six-month moratorium on offshore deepwater drilling, which was enjoined by a federal district court judge in New Orleans. This report provides some background information about the case, the district court judge who enjoined the moratorium, and the circuit court judges who will hear the Administration's appeal, in particular noting the judges' often significant ties to the oil and gas industries. This report concludes with a chart summarizing the energy investments and other ties to big oil companies of every judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi."—Executive Summary.
+Biber, Eric, Ann Carlson, Holly Doremus, Ethan Elkind, Dan Farber, Richard Frank, Sean Hecht, Cara Horowitz, Timothy Malloy, Cymie Payne, Steve Weissman, and Jonathan Zasloff, Legal Planet (UC Berkeley and UCLA blog)
"Legal Planet, a collaboration between UC Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law, provides insight and analysis on energy and environmental law and policy. The blog draws upon the individual research strengths and vast expertise of the law schools' legal scholars and think tanks."
Includes entries on a range of topics, including the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (see here, here, and here for example).
The Oil Spill Response Plan is a 582-page document that "was developed in order to respond effectively to all emergency incidents that occur in the Gulf of Mexico, and will be utilized in the event of an oil spill occurring in Federal or State waters.
"The purpose of the Plan is to establish procedures, clarify responsibilities, and provide lines of authority and the sequence of communications to be followed in the event of an emergency response. Proper execution of the procedures detailed in this manual will help to limit environmental and ecological damage to sensitive areas as well as minimizing loss or damage to BP facilities in the event of a petroleum release and/or other emergency response incidents." — Purpose and Use.
"This report provides a daily oil and gas production rate forecast for the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Outer Contintental Shelf (OCS) for the years 2009 through 2018. The forecast shows average daily oil and gas production estimates for each calendar year. In this report, daily oil production rates include oil and condensate production, and daily gas production rates include gas-well gas and associated gas production." — Introduction.
+Brown, Stephen P. A., Some Implications of Tightening Regulation of U.S. Deepwater Drilling+Brown, Stephen P. A., Some Implications of Tightening Regulation of U.S. Deepwater Drilling(RFF Backgrounder) (June 2010) (PDF — 257k)
"In the wake of the disaster, many Americans are calling for tighter U.S. regulation of offshore drilling operations. For now, new offshore deepwater drilling is at a standstill. On May 27, the Obama administration announced a six-month moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling and the shutdown of deepwater exploratory wells already operating in U.S. waters until they meet new safety requirements."—Introduction.
"The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (also known as the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill or the BP Oil Spill) is a large ongoing oil spill caused by an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform about 50 miles southeast of the Mississippi River delta on April 20, 2010... Most of the 126 workers on the platform were safely evacuated, and a search and rescue operation began for 11 missing workers. The Deepwater Horizon sank in about 5,000 feet (1,500 m) of water on April 22, 2010. On April 23, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search for missing workers who are all presumed dead...
"The sinking of the platform caused crude oil to gush out of the riser—the 5,000-foot pipe that connects the well at the ocean floor to the drilling platform on the surface. Attempts to shut down the flow, first estimated at about 1,000 barrels of oil a day, failed when a safety device called a blowout preventer could not be activated." — Overview.
"On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez, en route from Valdez, Alaska to Los Angeles, California, ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The vessel was traveling outside normal shipping lanes in an attempt to avoid ice. Within six hours of the grounding, the Exxon Valdez spilled approximately 10.9 million gallons of its 53 million gallon cargo of Prudhoe Bay crude oil." — Introduction.
"Deterring and/or punishing firms that spill oil would seem at first glance to be issues left to the courts and lawyers. Yet, economists have studied the optimal penalty for environmenal harms for many years and have a useful framework for analyzing the appropriate sanctions in the case of an oil spill. The optimal penalty literature begins with Gary Becker's (1968) economic analysis of crime. The basic insight of that seminal article is that potential criminals respond to both the probability of detection and the severity of punishment if detected and convicted. Consequently, deterrence may be enhanced by raising the penalty, increasing monitoring activities to raise the likelihood that the offender will be caught, or changing legal rules to increase the probability of conviction."
"On June 3, 2010 more than 200 scientists convened on the campus of Louisiana State University (LSU) to discuss the urgent issues regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that has been releasing large quantities of oil into the Gulf of Mexico since the end of April. The participants were briefed by federal agency officials about the government's response to date and research activities underway. The key component of the meeting was breakout sessions focused on estimating the flow rate of the spill, projecting its fate and determining the effects of the oil and the dispersants on the environment and human health."
"A new report released today on the 100th day of the BP oil disaster details short and long-term strategies for the Obama administration to make coastal Louisiana less vulnerable to future oil spills and hurricanes, including negotiating with BP for a $5 billion down payment on expected payments for natural resource damages."—Press Release.
"This case asks whether the federal government's imposition of a general moratorium on deepwater drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico was imposed contrary to law. Before the Court is the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED."
"It is ordered that Honorably Kenneth Lee 'Ken' Salazar, in his official capacity as Secretary, United States Department of the Interior... and all persons in active concert or participation with them, who receive actual Notice of this Preliminary Injunction (collectively 'defendants'), and until a full trial on the merits is had, are hereby immediately prohibited from enforcing the Moratorium, entitled 'Suspension of Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Drilling of New Deepwater Wells,' dated May 28, 2010, and NTL No. 2010-N04 seeking implementation of the Moratorium, as applied to all drilling on the OCS in water at depths greater than 500 feet..."
"As a result of the Gulf oil spill, the future costs of drilling and operating in the Gulf will rise considerably. Certain cost increases can be attributed to natural market forces, such as insurance and capital providers repricing the risk of drilling and operating in the deepwater. Other cost increases will be a result of significant changes in regulatory policy, which are currently being discussed by members of Congress. The repricing of risk in conjunction with proposed regulatory changes will have drastic long-term implications for exploration and production companies. Some of these implications are examined in the following pages."—Introduction.
+Hagerty, Curry L., Coordinator, Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy, Jonathan L. Ramseur, Coordinator, Specialist in Environmental Policy, Congressional Research Service (CRS), Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Selected Issues for Congress (CRS Report, Order Code R41262) (June 18, 2010) (PDF — 755k)
"On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire occurred on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. This resulted in 11 worker fatalities, a massive oil release, and a national response effort in the Gulf of Mexico region by the federal and state governments as well as BP.
"Several issues for Congress have emerged as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident. What lessons should be drawn from the incident? What technological and regulatory changesmay be needed to met risks peculiar to drilling in deeper water? How should Congress distribute costs associated with a catastrophic oil spill? What interventions may be necessary to ensure recovery of Gulf resources and amenities? What does the Deepwater Horizon incident imply for national energy policy, and the tradeoffs between energy needs, risks of deepwater drilling, and protection of natural resources and amenities?
"This report provides an overview of selected issues related to the Deepwater Horizon incident and is not intended to be comprehensive. It will be updated to reflect emerging issues." — Summary.
"Moratoria provisions for the outer continental shelf (OCS), enacted as part of the Department of the Interior appropriations over 26 years, prohibited federal spending on oil and gas development in certain locations and for certain activities. These annual congressional moratoria expired on September 30, 2008. While the expiration of the restrictions does not make leasing and drilling permissible in all offshore areas, it is a significant development in conjunction with other changes in offshore leasing activity. The ending of the moratoria signals a shift in policy that may affect other OCS policies as well... The expiration of congressional moratoria is part of a series of changes in domestic and international OCS energy development policy. Moratorium policies have impacted federal-state coordination on economic and environmental concerns. As a result of changes in these policies, federal-state coordination and nation-to-nation coordination may emerge as issues for Congress as it addresses economic and environmental challenges in the OCS."—Summary.
"[R]eviews the insurance issues relating to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Loss. Slides show the tpes of coverage that might apply and the number of parties that might be involved. The liability factor and legal ramifications are discussed and slides explain the Oil Pollution Act and the Oil Spill Liabilit Trust Fund. A section deals with risk management and regulatory fallout, noting that increaed federal oversight is a certainty. Another section provides information on global energy insurance markets, with a focus on key trends, capacity, insured exposure and profitability. The presentation concludes with a review of past oil spills."
"The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (EVOSTC) is one of ARLIS's eight Founding Partners and has entrusted ARLIS with its extensive collection of materials on the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS). Many of the items in this collection are unique and available only at ARLIS...
"This guide provides links to numerous full-text publications and many more are available through the ARLIS catalog at www.arlis.org."
+Humphries, Marc, Analyst in Energy Policy, Robert Pirog, Specialist in Energy Economics, and Gene Whitney, Section Research Manager, Congressional Research Service (CRS), U.S. Offshore Oil and Gas Resources: Prospects and Processes (CRS Report for Congress, Order Code R40645) (April 26, 2010) (PDF — 372K)
"Access to potential oil and gas resources under the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) continue to be controversial. Moratoria on leasing and development in certain areas were established by Congress (beginning in 1981) and by the President (beginning in 1990). These moratoria were largely eliminated in 2008 and 2009, although a few areas remain legislatively off limits to leasing. The 111th Congress may be unlikely to reinstate broad leasing moratoria, but some members have expressed interest in protecting areas (e.g., the Georges Bank or Northern California) or establishing protective coastal buffers. Pressure to expand oil and gas supplies and protect coastal environments and ecommunities will likely lead Congress and the Administration to consider carefully which areas to keep open to leasing and which to protect from development...
"Consideration of offshore development for any purpose may raise concerns over the protection of the marine and coastal environment. Historical events associated with offshore oil production, such as the large oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA, in 1969, cause both opponents and prponents of offshore development to consider the risks and to weigh those risks against the economic and social benefits of the development. However, both technology and regulatory oversight have improved since that event. But the recent oil spill that occurred on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico has brough increased attention to those offshore drilling risks." — Summary.
"In this report, we explain the various constitutional and legal authorities available to President Obama and federal agencies under his control—authorities that could have enabled them to respond to the BP disaster as expeditiously as possible. The authorities come directly from the Constitution, as well as emergency authority under various environmental and administrative law statutes. Yet, as we recount, in many important instances, these authorities were either ignored or fitfully exercised."—Executive Summary.
"While the Obama administration had planned to open up new areas to oil and gas leasing off the coast of Virginia, in Alaska, and in the Gulf of Mexico, angering environmental advocates, the massive oil spill from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010 forced the administration to reconsider. The explosion killed eleven oil workers, sunk the rig, and is expected to have a lasting impact on the environment. Some industry experts fear the political fallout from the spill could halt new offshore drilling indefinitely, particularly in deepwater (depths greater than one thousand feet)." — Introduction.
"The objective of the MMS bonding program is to ensure that all entities performing activities under the jurisdiction of the MMS provide or demonstrate adequate financial resources to protect the U.S. Government from incurring any financial loss. Each lease in the GOM region is reviewed to ensure the working interest owners have adequate financial coverage to provide for the performance of all lease obligations when the designated operator and/or the lessees cannot fulfill their requirements on rent, royalties, environmental damage, cleanup and restoration activities, abandonment and site clearance, and other lease obligations...
"The purpose of this report is to update the supplemental bond formula in a risk-adjusted manner to more accurately represent the cost and government exposure associated with decommissioning activities."—Executive Summary
"The vast majority of the oil from the BP oil spill has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed, recovered from the wellhead or dispersed much of which is in the process of being degraded. A significant amount of this is the direct result of the robust federal response efforts."—Press Release.
"Evidence indicates that the Deepwater Horizon spill was attributable to a lack of sufficient oversight during the transition of the rig from exploration to commercial production. Halting all offshore deepwater drilling in response to a likely low-probability event serves neither to address the root causes of the accident, nor to aid in the economic rehabilitation of the Gulf region. Indeed, a moratorium on offshore drilling would result in billions of dollars in additional lost economic activity in the Gulf."—Executive Summary.
"The Coast Guard has gathered evidence it failed to follow its own firefighting policy during the Deepwater Horizon disaster and is investigating whether the chaotic spraying of tons of salt water by private boats contributed to sinking the ill-fated oil rig, according to interviews and documents."
"The sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and the resulting discharge of millions of gallons of crude oil into the sea demonstrated graphically the challenge of environmental protection in the ocean waters shared by Cuba and the United States...
"While Washington is working to prevent future disasters in U.S. waters like the Deepwater Horizon, its current policies foreclose the ability to respond effectively to future oil disasters—whether that disaster is caused by companies at work in Cuban waters, or is the result of companies operating in U.S. waters." — Introduction.
The official site of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, formed to provide recommendations on the prevention of future spills from offshore drilling. The Commission consists of seven members, appointed by President Obama: Senator Bob Graham, William K. Reilly, Frances G. Beinecke, Donald Boesch, Terry D. Garcia, Dr. Cherry A. Murray, and Frances Ulmer. See the White House press release for more details on the establishment of the Commission.
"The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) establishes a framework that addresses the liability of responsible parties in connection with the discharge of oil into the navigable waters of the United States, adjoining shorelines, or the exclusive economic zone. Among other provisions, OPA limits certain liabilities of a responsible party in conection with discharges of oil into such areas. The liability limitations established by OPA are currently the subject of significant congressional interest in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."—Summary.
"This is the ninth publication that the Minerals Management Service has released chronicling deepwater exploration, development, and production activities in the Gulf of Mexico. For this report deep water is considered to be water depths of 1,000 feet (305 meters) or greater...
"The Minerals Management Service is a responsible steward of U.S. offshore resources by ensuring the receipt of fair market value for the sale of leases, encouraging conservation, evaluating and approving new technology, and regulating drilling and production." — Preface.
"Soon after the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989, the Alaska Sea Grant College Program (ASG), directd by Ronald Dearborn, assembled the four-person ASG EVOS Legal Research Team. Its purpose was to identify legal tools the State of Alaska might use to improve regulations aimed at preventing and responding to oil spills." — Description.
"During the past two decades, while U.S. oil imports and consumption have steadily risen, oil spill incidents and the volume of oil spilled have not followed a similar course... There is some concern that the favorable U.S. spill record has resulted in a loss of experienced personnel, capable of responding quickly and effectively to a major oil spill... This report reviews the history and trends of oil spills in the United States; identifies the legal authorities governing oil spill prevention, response, and cleanup; and examines the threates of future oil spills in U.S. coastal waters." — Summary.
"The law of oil spill liability is a patchwork, built from relatively ancient traditions of maritime law but with a major overlay of modern statutes. It is a mixture of civil liability (at both the federal and state level) and criminal regimes. Different climants with varying types of damage claims are treated differently. While liability is the primary method of preventing spills, significant regulations exist as well, and these regulations influence the liability rules in turn. This complexity is the result of an uneasey compromise between industry interests and legislators motivated by damages from spills. Historically, this compromise has shifted in response to major spills, and is likely to do so again in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill."—Introduction.
"Analysis by RMS suggests that in an average year (i.e., assuming medium-term activity rates in the RMS® U.S. Hurricane Model), there is a 10% probability that a hurricane wind field will pass through the current extent of the slick, and about a 4% probability that this would be an intense Category 3-5 hurricane with a significant storm surge and the potential to carry tar deposits far inland. Given all the indications concerning the elevated activity now expected through the 2010 hurricane season, these probabilities are 13% for a hurricane wind field passing through the slick and 7% for an intense Category 3-5 event. However, any hurricane in the vicinity of the slick has the potential to bring waves that break protective booms and allow the oil to be displaced into coastal salt marshes and beaches above the tide line. RMS analysis also indicates an approximately 16% change that a tropical storm or hurricane will pass within 100 miles of the Macondo well before the end of July, rising to more than 40% by the end of August, requiring precautionary evacuation of the replacement drilling platform and surface oil recovery vessels."—Hurricane-Slick Interaction.
"Despite dominating the headlines for more than a month, there is little agreement about the size of the Deepwater Horizon spill. One of the teams in the government taskforce has put the latest estimate at between 20,000 and 40,000 barrels a day, up from an earlier range of 12,000 to 19,000. Discounting the 149,000 barrels captured by BP's cap, even at the low end of the new range, the leak would be one of the largest accidental spills ever (the various wells uncorked by the first Gulf War were far bigger)."
"The gulf oil crisis reminds us that it is essential to have a response plan that is activated early and can continue into the future for as long as needed. We need to establish an architecture complete with clear lines of responsibilities and acknowledged trigger points for action. It should facilitate the involvement of the appropriate federal health agencies in addressing a potential public health emergency - from watchful waiting to emergency response to long-term monitoring and management."—Introduction and summary.