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Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
The grounding of the Exxon Valdez prompted both the state and federal governments to significantly alter the laws, regulations and strategies relating to oil pollution. At the state level, between April 1989 and May 1990 the Alaska Legislature passed a dozen new laws dealing with prevention, response and oversight. Among the most significant laws was a law boosting the state's emergency oil and hazardous substance response fund to $50 million -- 50 times what the fund had contained at the time of the spill. The Legislature also mandated a complete rewrite of the state's oil spill prevention, response, and contingency planning regulations, and increased both liability and penalties for polluters. The fund has since become the states primary source for spill response planning and development, including funding for a new special division of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) dedicated solely to oil and hazardous substance spill issues.
The changes at the federal level were rolled together in the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990, which became law less than 18 months after the initial grounding of the Exxon tanker. This was especially significant, since the legislation that became the foundation of the OPA '90 had been languishing in various Congressional committees for nearly 15 years. Like the states measures, the federal act raised liability limits, mandated new prevention measures, and set up a new federal response fund.
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