Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Oil Pollution Act

This Act, Oil Pollution Act of 1990 -- Public Law 101-380 (33 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.; 104 Stat. 484) established new requirements and extensively amended the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1301 et. seq.) to provide enhanced capabilities for oil spill response and natural resource damage assessment by the Service. It required Service consultation on developing a fish and wildlife response plan for the National Contingency Plan, input to Area Contingency Plans, review of Facility and Tank Vessel Contingency Plans, and to conduct damage assessments associated with oil spills. The following are the pertinent provisions.

Title I, section 1006, provided that Federal trustees shall assess natural resource damages for natural resources under their trusteeship. Federal trustees may, upon request from a State or Indian tribe, assess damages to natural resources for them as well. Trustees shall develop and implement a plan for the restoration, rehabilitation, replacement, or acquisition of the equivalent of natural resources under their trusteeship.

The definition of natural resources damages was amended to include restoration as the basic measure, plus other values. Natural resource damage assessment regulations were promulgated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in August 1992. (These regulations replaced Department of the Interior regulations at 43 CFR Part 11 for oil spills only.) Damages collected must be retained in a revolving account for use only to reimburse assessment costs and restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent natural resources.

Title I, section 1011, provides that trustees are to be consulted on the appropriate removal action to be taken in connection with any discharge of oil.

Title I, section 1012, provided for the uses of the oil pollution fund. In addition to response costs, the fund may be used without appropriations to pay the costs of assessments, as well as to pay claims for natural resource damages if there are no funds or insufficient funds from a responsible party. (A claims procedure was developed under section 1013.) This section also stipulated deadlines for the submission of removal cost claims and damage claims.

Title IV, section 4201, amended subsection 311(d) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act with respect to Federal removal authority. It declared the contents of the National Contingency Plan to consist of a detailed oil and hazardous substance pollution prevention plan, including fisheries and wildlife. The Fish and Wildlife Response Plan was developed in consultation with the Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Title IV, section 4202, amended subsection 311(j) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act with respect to the National Planning and Response System. It defined area committees and area contingency plans, and requirements and deadlines for agencies. Under this section, the Service is required to generate a list of all equipment, including fire fighting equipment, as well as personnel and any other equipment and supplies that could be used to expedite the removal of oil or mitigation of a spill.

Title IV, section 7001, provided for oil pollution research and development. The Service is included in the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research, established to research and develop methods to restore and rehabilitate natural resources damaged by oil discharges, and to research and evaluate the relative effectiveness and environmental impacts of bioremediation technologies.

One aspect of particular interest to the Service involves the identification of ecologically sensitive areas and the preparation of scientific monitoring and evaluation plans. Research conducted by the Service is to be directed and coordinated by the National Wetland Research Center.

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