Funding for Oil Spill and Hazardous Substances Release Response

Responding to oil spills and hazardous substances releases involves coordinated efforts by the Coast Guard and EPA Federal On-scene Coordinators (FOSCs), other Federal agencies including DOI, state and local governments, the responsible party (RP), and Oil Spill Response Organizations (OSROs).


The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 1990) (33 U.S.C. 2701-2761) amended the Clean Water Act and addressed the wide range of problems associated with preventing, responding to, and paying for oil pollution incidents in navigable waters of the United States. 


Title I of OPA 1990 established oil spill liability and compensation requirements, including the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) to pay for expeditious oil removal and uncompensated damages.  As part of the implementation of Title I of OPA 1990, the U.S. Coast Guard's National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC) was created.

For hazardous substance releases, The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, created the Superfund Trust Fund, which is used for cleaning up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.  CERCLA authorizes two kinds of response actions – short term removals to address releases or threatened releases requiring prompt response, and long-term remedial response actions that permanently and significantly reduce the dangers associated with a release.

It is important to note is that under both OPA and CERCLA, the responsibility for the response lies with the Responsible Party (RP) - when the RP can be identified and is financially viable. Even when response expenses, claims, and damage assessment initiation are paid from the OSLTF or the Superfund Trust Fund, the NPFC or EPA will seek reimbursement from the RP.  It is also important to note, that the trust funds provide funding for response, and not for preparedness activities. 

During a response, the FOSC frequently issues Pollution Removal Funding Authorizations (PRFAs) supported by funding from the OSLTF to obtain needed response assistance from other Government agencies (Federal, State, Tribal, or local), such as DOI and its bureaus.  PRFAs are essentially interagency reimbursable agreements that outline the oil spill response support to be provided by other agencies for the FOSC. 

For DOI, OEPC provides guidance, support, direction and management for the negotiation and implementation of PRFAs issued by FOSCs to Departmental bureaus and offices and coordinates their participation in incident-specific oil spill response activities.  OEPC’s Regional Environmental Officers (REOs) serve as the primary contacts for DOI bureau staff with regard to negotiating and coordinating the reimbursable work activities authorized in a PRFA.  


Departmental guidance and procedures related to PRFAs for oil spill response activities can be found here: 

 ECM 16-4 PRFA Guidance


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