CERCLA, CWA and OPA require the designation of certain Federal, State, and Native American Tribal officials to act on behalf of the public as trustees for natural resources that they manage or protect. Natural resources, as defined in CERCLA and OPA, means land, fish, wildlife, biota, air, water, groundwater, drinking water supplies, and other such resources belonging to, managed by, held in trust by, appertaining to, or otherwise controlled by the United States, any state or local government, or Indian Tribe.
Roles & Responsibilities
Natural resource(s) trustees are responsible for assessing damages to resources under their jurisdictions resulting from oil spills or release of hazardous substances. Also, agencies are responsible for seeking recovery for losses from responsible parties and for devising and carrying out rehabilitation, restoration, and replacement of injured natural resources. Where more than one natural resource(s) trustee has jurisdiction over a resource, agencies will coordinate and cooperate in carrying out the activities described above (reference NCP 300.600). Damage assessment is controlled by the designated natural resource(s) trustees and not response; however, it is important for natural resource(s) trustees to work with the OSC/RPM to coordinate activities as necessary.
To minimize impacts to natural resources and assist trustees in carrying out their responsibilities, the OSC is required to
- Promptly report actual or potential discharges or releases to those federal, state and tribal agencies designated as trustees for natural resources;
- Consult with trustees and other natural resource managers in determining such impacts and appropriate protective actions;
- Coordinate all response activities with trustees and other natural resource managers;
- Make available to trustees documentation and information that can assist the trustees in determining actual or potential natural resource injuries; and
- Consult with USFWS on all incidents and response activities that may affect federally-listed threatened or endangered species or their habitats.
The trustees and other natural resource managers, consistent with procedures specified in the Fish and Wildlife Annex (Appendix VII), may provide timely advice on recommended actions concerning resources that are potentially affected by a discharge of oil or release of hazardous substances. This could include providing assistance to the OSC/RPM in identifying and recommending pre-approved response techniques and in predesignating shoreline types and areas.
See Appendix VII for a detailed discussion of trustee responsibilities.
The trustees are authorized to assess monetary damages for resources injured, lost, or destroyed as a result of discharge of oil or releases of hazardous substances. In addition, the trustees are authorized to seek damages from the responsible person(s), and to devise and carry out restoration, rehabilitation and replacement of natural resources. Where more than one trustee has jurisdiction over a resource, these agencies should coordinate and cooperate in carrying out their activities. RRT representatives from trustee agencies serve as contact points.
Points of Contact
The Region 5 contact for the DOI Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance is located in Philadelphia, PA, at (215) 597-5378.
NOAA acts on behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce as a trustee for natural resources. NOAA contacts include member/trustee Representative Stephen Lehmann (phone: (617) 877-2806) and alternate member Lt. Greg Schweitzer (phone: (206) 849-9918) [24/7 Emergency Contact for both: (206) 526-4911].