Australian law does not place any caps on the liability of operators of offshore petroleum facilities in terms of the clean-up and remedial costs resulting from oil spills. Civil penalties, criminal offenses, and actions in tort may also be applicable. Oil companies are required to have adequate insurance coverage for the expenses and liabilities that may arise from oil spills. A National Plan sets out the responsibilities of different entities in responding to an oil spill, with the oil company having primary operational responsibility and assistance being made available from a range of sources.
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Constitutional principles grant to everyone the right to an ecologically balanced environment and the duty to defend and preserve it. The government is charged with the responsibility of controlling the activities that may pose a risk to life and the environment. Damages to the environment are punishable both administratively and criminally, without prejudice to the duty to repair the harm caused.
Law No. 9,966 of April 28, 2000, governs the prevention, control, and monitoring of pollution caused by the spill of oil and other harmful or dangerous substances on waters under national jurisdiction and determines the essential rules to handle oil and other harmful or dangerous substances.
Petroleum, natural gas, and the biofuel industry are regulated by the Petroleum National Agency (ANP – Agência Nacional do Petróleo, Gás Natural e Biocombustíveis), a federal agency subordinated to the Ministry of Mines and Energy. Additionally, several other agencies are involved in the process of environmental control and licensing related activities.
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Offshore drilling in Canada is regulated by the federal government on the West Coast and in the Arctic, and by joint federal-provincial bodies off the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. The applicable laws establish safety standards, liability, limits on liability where there is no illegality or negligence, and punishments. Responsibilities for responding to oil spills is shared by many federal and provincial agencies. On the federal level, major responsibilities are assigned to Environment Canada, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, the Coast Guard, and the National Energy Board. On federal lands, the National Energy Board issues exploration and production licenses. In the east, licenses are granted by the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board and its counterpart in Nova Scotia.
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Under the Petroleum Activities Act (PAA), Norway generally imposes strict liability for pollution damage from petroleum-related activities and has no cap on liability for offshore drilling. Special provisions apply to compensation for Norwegian fishermen. Criminal liability applies to willful or negligent acts in violation of PAA provisions and to complicit acts, but if the violation could entail a more severe penalty “under any other statutory provision,” the PAA penal provisions will not apply. The PAA does not appear to distinguish between deepwater and shallow water activities for purposes of liability for oil spills. Proof of insurance is required for petroleum-related activities, under both the PAA and the Norwegian standard joint venture agreement. Major regulatory bodies include the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, and the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway.
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The main oil producing areas in the UK are located in the North Sea. Liability for oil spills rests with the operator on the “polluter pays” basis, with unlimited liability for costs associated with pollution and clean up. There is a substantial regulatory regime for offshore installations that involve many government bodies. For oil pollution, primary responsibility rests with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
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Last Updated: 04/02/2013