The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) promoted a coordinated industry and government enhancement of response resources to combat oil spills effectively in the United States. However, the United States remains vulnerable to oil spills near the borders it shares with Canada, Mexico, and various nations in the Caribbean due to legal and administrative impediments associated with cross-boundary spill response activities.
This paper explores cross-boundary related issues that could hinder a response and the relationship and roles of industry and government with regard to such issues, and provides recommendations to enhance improved cooperation between government and industry to facilitate response activities. The international structure that currently exists—globally, regionally, and bilaterally—provides a basic framework that promotes cooperation between nations to respond harmoniously to spills threatening the shores of neighboring countries. However, the existing agreements and understandings only provide a basic umbrella. They require planning and implementation of details and commitment to take the specific actions required to implement these agreements and understandings fully. As a result, the enhanced private response capability that now exists in the United States may not be available in a spill involving cross-boundary operations. Neighboring nations must take action to facilitate cross-boundary activities by responders by providing responder-immunity protection similar to that provided under OPA 90 and by removing potential impediments to response activities: laws and other requirements relating to matters such as customs, immigration, and safety training.