A tax on oil companies that generated hundreds of millions of dollars annually for federal oil-spill response efforts expired.

The tax on companies selling oil in the United States generated an average of $500 million in federal revenue per year, according to the Government Accountability Office.

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The money, collected through a 9 cents-per-barrel tax on domestic crude oil and imported crude oil and petroleum products, constituted the main source of revenue for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, according to a report in The Washington Post.

The fund has at least $5.75 billion in reserve. Intended to help the government respond quickly to accidents on land or offshore, it was established in 1986 but only got a stable source of funding in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.

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The tax, which expired Sunday, had lapsed before but was renewed under the bipartisan 2005 Energy Policy Act. Federal officials had debated whether it should be expanded to apply to oil sands products.

Although GOP leaders opted not to renew the tax in December, they are considering reinstating it retroactively in an “extenders” bill that would revive several recently expired taxes.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska, and Maria Cantwell, Wash., respectively the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, have put forward a bill updating the 2005 energy law. Their proposal does not contain any tax provisions, however.

An extender package that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, introduced just before Christmas would reinstate the per-barrel tax as of Jan. 1 and push its expiration date to the end of 2018.

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