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Story Map: Examining the Oil Pollution Act’s Legacy Through 30 Oil Spills

Cleanup workers on a beach.
Task force members remove oil-contaminated sand from the beach on Matagorda Island, Texas, March 30, 2014. Cleanup operations are being directed by a unified command comprised of personnel from the Texas General Land Office, U.S. Coast Guard and Kirby Inland marine. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.

Thirty years ago today, in the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA90) was passed unanimously by congress. This act streamlined and strengthened the U.S. government's ability to prevent, respond to, and hold polluters accountable for catastrophic oil spills.

This ArcGIS story map explores just one spill from each of the 30 years since OPA was passed. While these 30 spills represent a small fraction of overall events, we hope to shine a light on the real places and people who have been impacted by pollution and benefited from the Oil Pollution Act.

NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration provides scientific support, injury assessment, and restoration for oil spills. We provide scientific support for hundreds of spills each year, over 2,740 since the passage of the Oil Pollution Act, and with partners have recovered over $9.8 billion for restoration.

Over the past 30 years, NOAA continues to learn and evolve under the act's framework, developing state of the art tools and setting international standards for oil spill response, assessment, and restoration.

The legacy of the Oil Pollution Act is that it remains as important in 2020 as it was in 1990.

Explore our story map here.

Last updated Tuesday, November 8, 2022 1:45pm PST