Comprehensive oil spill liability and compensation legislation, including adoption of two important international oil spill treaties, has eluded the United States for too long. Although there is broad agreement in the Administration, both houses of Congress, oil and shipping interests, state governments and the environmental community that we need comprehensive oil spill legislation, these often divergent interests have not been able, at least as of this writing (December 1986), to agree on a compromise package.

Both houses of Congress passed bills during the 99th Congress, the latest House versions in Titles VI and VIII of H.R. 5300 and, in the Senate, S. 2799. These bills were dissimilar in several ways. However, most informed interests suggested that, had a compromise House bill emerged near the end of the Congress, a Senate-House conference committee could have reached agreement between the House offer and S. 2799. Unfortunately this did not occur. Also, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported out favorably (to the full Senate), the ratification of the 1984 protocols to the 1969 Civil Liability Convention and the 1971 Fund Convention (CLC and Fund), with a “reservation” and a number of “understandings.”

The need for appropriate legislation arises from deficiencies in and the patchwork approach of current U.S. legislation.

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