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http://ssrn.com/abstract=1866391
 
 

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Deterring and Compensating Oil Spill Catastrophes: The Need for Strict and Two-Tier Liability


W. Kip Viscusi


Vanderbilt University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics

Richard J. Zeckhauser


Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

May 12, 2011

Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-27

Abstract:     
The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill highlighted the glaring weakness in the current liability and regulatory regime for oil spills and for environmental catastrophes more broadly. This article proposes a new liability structure for deep sea oil drilling and for catastrophic risks generally. It delineates a two-tier system of liability. The first tier would impose strict liability up to the firm’s financial resources plus insurance coverage. The second tier would be an annual tax equal to the expected costs in the coming year beyond this damages amount. A single firm will be identified as responsible for generating the risk. It would be required to demonstrate substantial ability to pay in the first tier before being permitted to engage in the risky activity. This structure provides for efficient deterrence for environmental catastrophes, since the responsible party is bearing in expectation the risks it is imposing. It also addresses the challenges posed by the fat-tailed distributions of catastrophic environmental risks and provides for more assured and adequate compensation of potential losses than current liability and regulatory arrangements.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 59

Keywords: BP Deepwater Horizon, oil spills, liability, catastrophic risk, environment, fat-tailed distributions

JEL Classification: K32, G22, Q3, Q4

working papers series


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Date posted: June 21, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Viscusi, W. Kip and Zeckhauser, Richard J., Deterring and Compensating Oil Spill Catastrophes: The Need for Strict and Two-Tier Liability (May 12, 2011). Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-27. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1866391 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1866391

Contact Information

W. Kip Viscusi (Contact Author)
Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )
131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-343-7715 (Phone)
615-322-5953 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics
Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm
Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management
401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm
Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )
Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Richard J. Zeckhauser
Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-1174 (Phone)
617-384-9340 (Fax)
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-1174 (Phone)
617-496-3783 (Fax)
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