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Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases

Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases

Overview State agencies

Overview State agencies have had legal standing to sue for damages to the natural resources in their respective states for decades. Some state agencies have been active in pursuing settlements with responsible parties for damages resulting from releases of oil or hazardous materials into the environment. Other agencies are just beginning to explore how a program to deal with natural resource damages (NRD) cases might look. In order to secure NRD settlements, trustees must engage in the process of NRD Assessment (NRDA). Much has been written to describe and improve upon the state of the art in NRDA. However, most state programs lack the funding or staff capacity to effectively use such sophisticated and expensive assessment methods. Furthermore, most of the cases that a state agency might have to grapple with are, in fact, very small, and may be poorly documented. In such cases, it may be infeasible or nonsensical to conduct a case-specific NRDA. This multi-part project reviews how state agencies with NRD programs have chosen to conduct NRDAs for their projects (Chapter 1), evaluates simplified assessment methods developed at the state level that might be adapted for use in other states (Chapter 2), and examines how trustees and academics have wrestled with the particularly thorny issue of evaluating NRDs when the damaged resource is groundwater (Chapter 3.) The project report also includes a document which may be of use in states where the trustees are just beginning to pursue NRD cases; it gives a summary of the federal statutes that give trustees the authority to pursue NRD cases, and provides summaries of illustrative cases (Chapter 4). iv

Chapter 1: Tables and Figures Table 1.1: State Office Responses ............................................................................................4-5 Table 1.2: Number of Agencies Reporting Statutory Authority under State Law........................6 Table 1.3: Year in Which Offices Began NRD Activity..............................................................6 Table 1.4: Staffing of NRD Programs (in FTE) ...........................................................................6 Table 1.5: Number of Cases Settled by Agency Prior to 1995.....................................................7 Table 1.6: Number of Cases by Agency from 1995 to 2001 ........................................................8 Table 1.7: Statutory Authority Invoked ........................................................................................8 Table 1.8: Number of Trustees Involved in a Case ......................................................................8 Table 1.9: Number of Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs).....................................................9 Table 1.10: Distribution of Cases among Statutes and Year of Onset of Injury..........................9 Table 1.11: Type of Event Responsible for Natural Resource Injury...........................................9 Table 1.12: Type of Contaminant .................................................................................................9 Table 1.13: Injured Resources .................................................................................................................................... 10 Table 1.14: Cost to Trustee of Performing NRDA .....................................................................11 Table 1.15: Damage Estimates from NRDA ..............................................................................11 Table 1.16: NRDA Methods Used by Different Agents.............................................................11 Table 1.17: NRDA Methods Used for Varied Types of Injured Resources ...............................11 Table 1.18: Amount of Settlement .............................................................................................12 Figure 1.1: Mean Settlement by NRDA Method .......................................................................13 Figure 1.2: Mean Settlement by Statute Invoked........................................................................13 Figure 1.3: Mean Settlement by Resources Injured....................................................................14 Figure 1.4: Relationship between NRD Estimates and Final Settlements..................................14 1

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