Ocean shippers will be less vulnerable to criminal prosecution for oil spills if a bill introduced by Sen. John Breaux, D-La., is signed into law.
The bill, S. 2944, and a companion in the House introduced by David Vitter, R-La., Howard Coble, R-N.C., and Bob Clement, D-Tenn., would ensure that the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 is the exclusive federal statute governing criminal penalties arising out of oil spills.Supporters of the legislation, which include the tug and barge industry, say that some government prosecutors treat every oil spill as a criminal act, without regard for intent, fault or the preventive measures that companies take to avoid such spills.
''This legislation will not change any of the tough, criminal sanctions imposed in OPA 90,'' Breaux said.
He said that current, ''antiquated'' liability statutes do not require the government to show criminal intent or ''even the slightest degree of negligence for oil spills.''
The American Waterways Operators applauded the bill, which was introduced on July 27.
''The continued specter of criminal liability, even when utmost care is taken, threatens the real progress the tug and barge industry has made in preventing oil spills,'' AWO President Tom Allegretti said.