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Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases

Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases

Mean Settlement (million

Mean Settlement (million $) $45 $40 $35 $30 $25 $20 $15 $10 $5 $0 14.95 13.22 17.19 14 28.18 16.45 40.30 ground water surface water wetland air, other fish, wildlife recreational, cultural Figure 1.3 Mean Settlement by Resources Injured NRD Settlement (million $) 25 20 15 10 5 0 Injured Resource 0 5 10 15 20 NRD Estimate (million $) Settlement 45° line Figure 1.4 Relationship between NRD Estimates and Final Settlements a a One case with extremely large damages was removed to make the rest of the figure more readable.

V. Conclusions Trustees have had reasonable success in achieving settlements for the damage estimates that emerge from their NRDAs. While HEA is certainly the most common single assessment method in the current era of NRD activity, methods that place a dollar value on damages are still successfully in use. Indeed, trustees employ a wide range of assessment methods, seemingly matching the sophistication (and expense) of the method to the expected magnitude of the damages. Though state trustees often hire consultants or team up with federal trustees when a complicated NRDA needs to be done, state offices sometimes carry out relatively sophisticated analyses in-house. A trustee agency just beginning to develop an NRD program can take heart from the fact that a wide variety of assessment methods have been shown in practice to be successful tools for generating damage estimates that will stand up in the settlement-negotiation process. Furthermore, it is appropriate for a trustee to opt for a less complex method that is inexpensive to implement when one is faced with a relatively small case. Economists need to realize that traditional economic valuation approaches have not been supplanted entirely by HEA. Thus, there is still useful work to be done in refining damage assessment methods that estimate the monetary value of lost resources. It would be valuable for economists to turn more attention to developing economically rational simplified methods that can easily and inexpensively be used in-house by a small NRD group within a state trustee agency. There also may be some value to synthesizing the work that has been done on complex valuation methods, and facilitating the transfer of that expertise to staff members of trustee agencies. 15

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