Each year, thousands of emergencies involving oil spills or the release (or threatened release) of hazardous substances are reported in the United States. Emergencies range from small scale spills to large events requiring prompt action and evacuation of nearby populations. The U. S. Government, in conjunction with State, Tribal and certain foreign Governments, has developed a comprehensive preparedness and response system in which the Department of the Interior (DOI) plays a major role.
The information on the web pages to follow provides a brief overview of DOI’s roles and responsibilities in planning for, and responding to, oil spills. The questions answered include:
The U. S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are the designated Federal lead agencies for preparing for, and responding to, oil spills. DOI fulfills a substantial support role to these agencies for oil spill preparedness and response. Authorities for U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) involvement in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery activities for oil discharges and hazardous substance releases are principally provided for in the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) (40 CFR Part 300) and responsibilities are delegated to the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance through the DOI Departmental Manual (112 DM 4). Additionally, numerous Federal laws and regulations define DOI responsibilities for protecting the Nation’s natural and cultural resources, managing Federal lands and waters, providing technical expertise and assistance, and serving as a Trustee for Native Americans. Many of these authorities provide the basis for DOI participation in spill preparedness, response, and recovery.
Oil spills have the potential to adversely impact the environment, natural resources, public lands, and people’s livelihoods. DOI is the designated Federal trustee and land manager for much of the nation’s natural resources (including those offshore); cultural and historic properties; and park, refuge, and public lands. DOI also has a trust responsibility with regard to Alaska Natives and American Indians.
Specific DOI responsibilities to protect resources that could be impacted by an oil spill include:
American Indian and Alaska Native Trust Responsibilities:
The Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance (OEPC), through the Regional Environmental Officers (REOs), receives initial notification of oil discharges and hazardous substance releases from the USCG or EPA. OEPC provides appropriate bureaus/offices with notification of discharges and releases. OEPC provides reports to the Interior Operations Center for their situational awareness. OEPC ensures requests for DOI expertise or assistance reach the appropriate bureau(s)/office(s). OEPC also represents DOI on the standing, and incident-specific activations, NRT, RRTs, and International Joint Response Teams (JRTs). OEPC provides input to press releases and media briefings. The role of OEPC is to advise and assist the FOSC on:
DOI bureaus and offices that have expertise and assets that can help with preparedness planning and response include:
What is the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) role in preparing to respond to an oil spill?
Preparing to respond to a spill requires collaboration and coordination among many parties on international, national, regional, state, tribal, and local levels; including the private sector. Numerous spill contingency plans have been developed to address the issues of response, assets available to respond, and the organizational structure to carry out a response
DOI also plays an important role in the aftermath of an oil spill with its Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program. For more information go to: http://www.doi.gov/restoration/index.cfm