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New California regulations may impact yacht-owners

| Jan 21, 2021 | Legislative Updates

In September, the California legislature passed an update to their laws governing oil spills. This law may create a burden for those sailing in California’s waters.

The amendment to the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act came into effect as of January 1st. You might already be aware of the provisions as previously stood, but the new law vastly increases the penalties.

Punishment of oil and gas spills

The act’s primary goal is to serve as a deterrent to companies that transport or drill oil off the Californian coast. As it stood, the law made it a felony to “knowingly engage in or cause the discharge or spill of oil into waters of the state.” It also made it a felony to ignore an oil spill you are responsible for and not to begin clean-up or to fail to notify the Office of Emergency Services of a spill.

Two fines accompanied the felony:

  • $5,000-500,000 per day for the entirety of the violation
  • $2,500-250,000 per day that you delayed notification for a first conviction. The fine doubles in case of a second conviction.

The new law doubles the above fines and assesses a third fine at $1,000 per gallon for every gallon over 1,000 gallons spilled.

What does this mean for yacht owners?

Simply because a yacht may not carry fuel or oil in volumes approaching a commercial tanker does not mean they cannot face this felony. Any ocean-going vessel has reserves of fuel and oil necessary to its function. Should an accident occur, and those reserves end up in California waters, it’s vital to act promptly to ensure compliance with the amendment or risk the steep penalties.

Secure your boat, and yourself, against legal liabilities

As a matter of course, all legal notices and maritime updates place a yacht-owner at risk, and no matter how small that risk may be, it is wise to ensure you have the maximum protection. An experienced maritime attorney can offer you several options to manage and minimize risk to you and your vessels.