Higher liability limits proposed for oil spills

The Coast Guard moved Tuesday toward increasing the maximum liability limits for oil spills that hit waterways and shorelines.

The federal government is supposed to update the liability ceilings every three years to reflect changes in inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The first increase came in 2010.

Under the changes proposed Tuesday in a notice in the Federal Register, ocean-going vessels’ liabilities would grow 8.2 percent. The largest ships covered under the program would be subject to a ceiling of $25.4 million, or $3,500 per gross ton, whichever is greater.

Deepwater ports that spill oil would also have their liability limits increased 8.2 percent.

The new limit would $404.5 million, except for offshore oil ports in Louisiana, which would have a $94.8 million ceiling.

The Coast Guard proposed the largest increase for onshore facilities that spill oil into shorelines or waterways. The liability cap for those spills would grow 15.6 percent to $404.6 million.