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Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases

Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases

Number of Spills 1800

Number of Spills 1800 1600 1400 1200 1000 800 600 400 200 0 AK AL AR AZ CA CO CT DC DE FL GA HI IA ID IL IN KS KY LA MA MD ME MI MN MO MS MT NC NE NH NJ NM NV NY OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VA VT WA WI WV WY Figure 2.3 Oil Spills in U.S. Waters by State in 2000 Source: USCG (2001). 28 State expenditures incurred by the state in responding to the spill. Following Washington State law (Washington, 1992), after an incident causing damages to natural resources of the state, the Department of Ecology (DECY) conducts a formal preassessment screening. 3 That screening determines whether restoration or enhancement of the injured resource is not technically feasible, damages are not quantifiable at reasonable cost and restoration or enhancement projects proposed by the liable parties are insufficient to adequately compensate the public for damages. If these three conditions apply to the case, then a compensation schedule will be used to determine damages. If the screening committee determines that a compensation schedule should not be used, then a case-specific damage assessment will be performed. The PRP is required to provide compensation for cost of restoring the resource to its pre-injury condition (if feasible) and for the value lost during the period between the injury and the restoration. This interim lost value is to include consumptive values, non-consumptive and indirect use values (which may include existence, bequest, option and aesthetic values), and lost taxes and other revenues. In 1991, the DECY was authorized to establish a compensation schedule for oil discharges. The amount of compensation is between $1 per gallon and $50 per gallon of oil spilled. This schedule is to provide adequate compensation for unquantifiable damages or for 3 The DECY has two offices that deal with NRDs. One handles cases to be pursued under CERCLA, and the other handles oil spills.

damages not quantifiable at reasonable cost for adverse environmental effects caused by the spill. Compensation should be based on the characteristics of the oil spilled (such as its toxicity and persistence) and the sensitivity of the affected area. The latter depends on the location of the spill, the habitat sensitivity, seasonal distribution of this sensitivity, importance of the area for recreational, aesthetic or archaeological use and proximity of the spill to wildlife habitats. Washington’s compensation-schedule method 4 uses minimal spill-specific information, and only pre-existing information about resource vulnerability to the type of oil spilled. The method has four major components: (1) A relative “harmfulness” ranking of each of the classes of oil involved as determined by their known chemical, physical and mechanical properties and factors that affect severity and persistence of the effects of the spill on the environment. (2) A relative vulnerability ranking of the receiving environment which takes into account location of the spill, habitat and sensitivity of the resource to the spill, seasonal distribution of the resources, areas of recreational use and aesthetic importance, the proximity of the spill to important habitats for birds, aquatic mammals, fish or other species listed as threatened or endangered, and areas of special ecological or recreational importance. (3) A method for calculating the resource damages from the oil spill based on (1) and (2). (4) A method for adjusting the damages calculated in (3) based on actions taken by the PRP such as immediate removal of oil from the environment, enhancing or impeding the detection of the spill and extent of damage. Part 1: Ranking of “harmfulness” There are several facets to the “harmfulness” ranking of the released material. All three rankings are on a scale of one to five. Acute toxicity indices (OILAT), which depend on the properties of the oil and its solubility in seawater, have been developed by the state agency for seven different types of oil. An acute-toxicity ranking of one represents the least harmful substance. Relative scores for mechanical injury (OILMI) have been developed based on the specific gravity of the oil spilled. Persistence scores (OILPER) have been developed on a one to five scale depending on the length of time the spilled oil is known to persist in a variety of habitat types. For example, a score of five is assigned if the effects of the oil spill will persist for five to ten years while a score of one is assigned if these effects will only last for days or weeks. Part 2: Ranking of “vulnerability” Scores indicating how vulnerable an environment is to an oil spill are determined separately for each of sixteen marine and estuarine regions and one hundred and thirty-one sub regions in the state. There are vulnerability scores for spills in: marine and estuarine waters; the 4 For complete details including values of scores, see Washington (1992). 29

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