Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

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

59 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2011  

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)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 12, 2011

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.

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

JEL Classification: K32, G22, Q3, Q4

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: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1866391 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1866391

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

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-1174 (Phone)
617-496-3783 (Fax)

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)

Paper statistics

Downloads
154
Rank
121,401
Abstract Views
1,049