Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 was enacted by Congress in order to streamline the legislative and regulatory framework governing oil spill prevention, liability, and response. However, in the six years since this law was enacted, a proliferation of oil pollution prevention laws have been enacted at the state level. Many of these state laws directly target the oil transportation industry, and such legislation has ignited controversy among marine safety experts as to the appropriate role of state government in preventing oil spills through industry regulation. This thesis examines one such law, recently enacted by the State of Rhode Island in response to the North Cape oil spill. Contents of the new Rhode Island law will be analyzed and compared to contents of oil pollution statutes in place in other states, in order to determine whether the contents of such legislation may be used to indicate areas in which the federal Oil Pollution Act requires amendment. This analysis of pollution prevention strategies in place at both the state and federal level will facilitate a discussion of how to balance effectively the need for pollution prevention at the state level with the need for uniformity in regulations governing industries involved in interstate commerce. This thesis attempts to clarify the jurisdictional boundaries between state and federal regulatory authority in order to establish whether the body of state-level oil pollution legislation enacted since 1990 has undermined the intent of the Oil Pollution Act to provide a comprehensive, national scheme for oil spill prevention.