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Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases

Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases

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% of All Cases 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 644 cases 2,597 cases 157 cases 0-49 50 51-100 101-500 501-1,000 1,001-5,000 5,000+ Figure 2.6 Damages in Florida Cases, 1995-2001 Source: Data from Florida DEP. 360 cases NRD $ Billed 40 120 cases 103 cases 33 cases The habitat factors have the appearance of mean values per unit of resource damaged. Such values could be obtained from a meta-analysis of previous valuation studies. It is not clear from the statute where the habitat factors in the Florida assessment method come from. If they are based on some such analysis, then this forms a reasonably good foundation for a simplified assessment of the value of the damaged resources. However, it is not clear why there should be a term for damages associated with the volume of the spill which is added to a term for damages associated with injured habitat. If affected habitat does not fall into one of the listed categories (coral reef, sandy beach, etc.) then it may make sense to estimate the damages just as a function of the volume, type, and location of the spill. If, on the other hand, oil is spilled right on top of a sandy beach, then it seems as though adding damages from the first term to damages from the second term is redundant, and may amount to double counting. This equation only makes sense if there is some damage associated with the mere fact of a discharge that is independent of the exposure of ecological systems to pollutants and the deaths of endangered species. III. Simplified NRDA for groundwater contamination CERCLA provides trustee agencies with a mandate to recover NRDs from parties responsible for discharging hazardous materials into the environment. While some NRD cases that states have pursued under CERCLA have been for recent releases, most have pursued

damages to natural resources at contaminated sites on the National Priorities List (“Superfund sites”). As Figure 2.7 makes clear, New Jersey has the largest number of Superfund sites. For this reason it is perhaps not surprising that the trustee agency in New Jersey has developed a simplified method for assessing at least some of the NRDs associated with chemical contamination of the environment. As pollutants move through the environment, groundwater is commonly contaminated by releases of hazardous materials even when the initial release is not directly into that resource. While all NRDA is challenging, it is particularly difficult to value the loss to society when groundwater resources are compromised (NRC, 1997). Thus, it may be of special use to trustees to use a simplified assessment when pursuing damages associated with groundwater contamination. Here, we outline and discuss two such methods developed by trustees in New Jersey and Minnesota. Number of Superfund Sites 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 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 PARI Figure 2.7 Superfund Sites by State State 41 SC SD TN TX UT VA VT WA WI WV WY Source: Environmental Defense Fund. Data from Scorecard. Downloaded from [7/02].

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