Perdue signs bill to protect NC coast from oil spill damages

Gov. Bev Perdue has signed Senate Bill 836 to protect North Carolina’s coastline by lifting the cap on damages that can be recovered as the result of an offshore oil spill and strengthening the review process related to the permitting of offshore fossil fuel facilities. The legislation will protect North Carolina’s coastal communities from potential disasters such as the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Our coastline is home to many families, provides jobs for our people, and is a source of pride for all North Carolina,” said Perdue in a prepared statement. “It’s critical that we do all we can to protect this precious resource.”

Senate Bill 836 clarifies the law to exempt offshore oil spills from limits on the recovery of damages from a discharge of hazardous substances. The bill also makes clear that liability applies regardless of the location of the spill and that any damages caused by cleanup techniques such as chemical dispersants are also included.

“It’s critical to the future of North Carolina that we protect our coastal families and businesses from even the slightest possibility of natural gas, oil, or drilling waste reaching our coastal fishing and offshore waters,” said Sen. Margaret Dickson.

“Our coastal resources are a critical component of the state’s economy: the Outer Banks alone draw 7 million visitors each year, while coastal tourism and fishing spur well over $2.1 billion in spending each year.  This bill is a common sense way to protect North Carolina’s coast from the dangers of offshore drilling, at the same time enacting one of the strongest laws in the nation that will protect our shores for future generations,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison.

The bill directs the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety to immediately review any potential impact of oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon on the North Carolina Coast and update the State’s Oil Spill Contingency Plan accordingly to ensure the state’s preparedness in the improbable event that the oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon makes it into North Carolina’s waters.

The bill also provides for a review of information pertaining to an offshore fossil fuel facility located in coastal fishing waters to determine consistency with state guidelines.

Senate Bill 836 has become a model for other states as they prepare legislation in response to the Gulf oil spill.