The U.S. Department of the Interior's (DOI) Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (Restoration Program) operates under a series of laws, regulations, and authorizing statutes. Additional Program guidance arises from Executive Orders and Departmental policies.

Laws and Regulations

Three laws, and their accompanying regulations, form the legal foundation for the NRDA Restoration Program and provide trustees with the legal authority to carry out Restoration Program responsibilities. These laws and regulations authorize and direct the DOI to take appropriate actions necessary to protect and restore the natural resources (and services provided by those natural resources) under its trusteeship that have been injured by a release of a hazardous substance or discharge, or a substantial threat of discharge of oil.

  1. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), as amended (42 U.S.C. §§ 9601, et seq.), including but not limited to sections 104, 107, 111(i), and 122.

    For the regulations implementing CERCLA natural resource damage assessment and restoration activities conducted for releases of hazardous substances,
    see 43 CFR 11.

    On February 8, 2000, the Department updated its final rule for simplified, or "Type A," procedures for assessing natural resource damages
    under CERCLA.

    On October 2, 2008, the Department updated its final rule for "Type B" procedures, which outlines an assessment process and assessment methods that trustees utilize on a case-by-case basis.

  2. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) (33 U.S.C. §§ 2701, et seq.), including but not limited to sections 1006 and 1012.

    For the regulations implementing OPA natural resource damage assessment and restoration activities conducted for discharges of oil, see 15 CFR 990.

  3. Federal Water Pollution Control Act or Clean Water Act (CWA), as amended
    (33 U.S.C. §§ 1251, et seq.), including but not limited to section 311(f).

In addition to the three laws and their accompanying regulations above, the NRDA Restoration Program also refers to the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP), as amended (40 CFR 300), issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The NCP regulations provide for efficient, coordinated, and effective action to minimize adverse effects from oil discharges and hazardous substance releases.

Authority and Authorizing Statutes

As authorized by CERCLA, OPA, and CWA, injuries to natural resources that the DOI manages or controls are assessed, and appropriate restoration projects are identified in contemplation of negotiated settlements or legal actions (in rare cases) with potentially responsible parties. Recoveries, in cash or in-kind services, from the potentially responsible parties are then used to finance or implement the restoration of the injured resources, pursuant to a publicly reviewed restoration plan.

  • CERCLA, as amended (42 U.S.C. §§ 9601, et seq.). Section 106 of the act authorizes the President to clean up hazardous substance sites directly, or obtain cleanup by a responsible party through enforcement actions. Trustees for natural resources may assess and recover damages for injury to natural resources from releases of hazardous substances and use the damages for restoration, replacement, or acquisition of equivalent natural resources. Provides permanent authorization to appropriate receipts from responsible parties.
  • OPA (33 U.S.C. §§ 2701, et seq.). Amends the CWA and authorizes trustees for natural resources to present a claim for, and to recover damages for, injuries to natural resources from each responsible party for a vessel or facility from which oil is discharged, or which poses a substantial threat of discharge of oil, into or upon the navigable waters of the United State (U.S.), adjoining shorelines, or the exclusive zone.
  • CWA, as amended (33 U.S.C. §§ 1251, et seq.). Authorizes trustees for natural resources to assess and recover damages for injuries to natural resources resulting from the discharge of oil into or upon the navigable waters of the U.S., adjoining shorelines, or waters of the contiguous zone; any connection with activities under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (43 U.S.C. §§ 1331, et seq.) or the Deepwater Port Act of 1974 (33 U.S.C. §§ 1501, et seq.); or that which may affect natural resources belonging to, appertaining to, or under the exclusive management authority of the U.S.
  • Public Law 101-337 (16 U.S.C. §§ 19jj, et seq.). Provides that response costs and damages recovered under it, or amounts recovered under any statute as a result of damage to any Federal resource within a unit of the National Park System, shall be retained and used for response costs, damage assessments, restoration, and replacements. Liability for damages under this public law is in addition to any other liability that may arise under other statutes.
  • Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 1992
    (H.R. 2686/P.L. 102-154). Permanently authorized receipts for damage assessment and restoration activities to be available without further appropriation until expended.
  • Dire Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1992
    (H.J.RES. 157/P.L. 102-229). Provides that the fund's receipts are authorized to be invested and available until expended. Also, provides that the amounts received by the U.S. in the settlement of United States vs. Exxon Corporation, et al. in fiscal year 1992 and thereafter be deposited into the fund.
  • Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 1996
    (P.L. 104-134). Provides authority to make transfers of settlement funds to other Federal trustees and payments to non-Federal trustees.

District Court Decisions Regarding NRDAR Regulations

In addition to the laws, regulations, and authorizing statutes described above the NRDA Restoration Program operates under a series of Departmental policies and guidelines. 

Departmental Policies

Departmental Policies consist of policy letters, memorandums, or bulletins issued by authorized Department management officials that generally provide policy guidance for the DOI based on broader government regulations. For further information on the policies that the NRDA Restoration Program operates under, please refer to the links/documents below.

In ascending order by date (most recent policy first):​​

  • DOI NRDAR Guidance for Presidential Memorandum on Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment
    December 9, 2016
    Adobe Acrobat - 2,903 KB .pdf File


Departmental Manual Guidelines

Permanent policy documents approved by the Secretary of the Interior or the Assistant Secretary - Policy, Management and Budget are incorporated into the Department of Interior's Departmental Manual (DM). These policy documents may include: organization descriptions; delegations of authority; and standards for administrative, legal, legislative, informational, and program activities within the DOI. The entire DM is available at the Electronic Library of Interior Policies (ELIPS). The particular Parts and Chapters of the DM applicable to the NRDAR Program can be found below.

  • Part 112, Chapter 30-Organization (112 DM 30)
    October 19, 2010
  • Part 207, Chapter 6-Delegation (207 DM 6)
    September 27, 2016
  • Part 521, Chapter 1-Authorities and Policy (521 DM 1)
    September 14, 1998
  • Part 521, Chapter 2-Responsibilities (521 DM 2)
    September 14, 1998
  • Part 521, Chapter 3-Signatory Authority (521 DM 3)
    September 14, 1998

Currently, certain portions of the DM applicable to the NRDA Restoration Program are undergoing revision pursuant to Secretarial Order 3295. In particular, revisions to 207 DM 6, 521 DM 1, 521 DM 2 and 521 DM 3 have been drafted and are being reviewed prior to being signed and implemented. Until the revisions have been approved and signed, the existing Parts and Chapters still apply.

Executive Orders (EOs)

EOs are legally binding instructions given by the President, acting as the head of the Executive Branch, to federal administrative agencies. EOs are used to direct federal agencies and officials in their execution of established laws or policies. EOs, numbered consecutively, are printed in the daily Federal Register after being signed by the President. The following EOs pertain to natural resource damage assessment and restoration activities.

Policy for Public Participation Plans in NRDAR Cases
September 17, 2012
Adobe Acrobat - 351 KB .pdf File