Phase 1 Assessment Planning & Field Studies
In Phase 1, which is complete, the Trustee Council’s objective was to develop a plan to assess natural resource injuries and damages in a focused, cost-effective manner, and conduct field studies to inform future phases of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA).
Phase 2 Settlement-Oriented Assessment and Restoration Planning
The goal of Phase 2, which is ongoing, is for the Trustee Council to reach early settlements with potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the PRPs’ NRD liability (described below) and conduct restoration planning. This settlement-oriented phase includes calculating injury and corresponding damages based on available information and targeted additional data collection consistent with the guidance in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) regulations.
Settlements are agreements between parties that resolve a dispute without the need for a lawsuit or trial. For the Portland Harbor NRDA, settlements under Phase 2 are considered “early.” This is because EPA’s cleanup actions in the Willamette River are not complete (and will not be for many years), and the Trustee Council’s full injury assessment is still underway. However, reaching early settlements now is ultimately beneficial for natural resources and the public:
- Settlements enable the Trustee Council to implement restoration actions sooner.
- Settlements reduce the amount of money and time required to assess injury, determine damages, and obtain payment of damages from PRPs (litigation is more expensive) so that more funds can be spent on restoration.
To legally bind the settling parties to their agreement, the parties sign a Consent Decree as part of the following process (which can have many variations and outcomes but is presented in a simplified form here).
This process is led by the United States Department of Justice in consultation with the Trustee Council:
- Phase 1:
- Phase 2:
- 2023 Settlements: