The beginning phase of a NRDAR (usually referred to as preassessment or initiation phase) usually occurs during the emergency response portion of an incident and includes the following steps:

a.            Formal notification of trustees by the On-Scene Coordinator or Remedial Project Manager;

b.            Preliminary data collection and sampling primarily to preserve ephemeral information;

c.             Determination of the likelihood of a successful damage claim--has an injury likely occurred, can it be tied to the incident, is there a viable responsible party, do feasible restoration actions to address the potential injuries exist, and will the cost of doing the assessment be less than the likely damages?

Under OPA, the trustees may only pursue a case if:

a.            An incident has occurred, and

b.            Natural resources under the trusteeship of the trustee may have been, or may be, injured as a result of the incident (15 CFR 990.41(a)).

Note: An incident is defined as any occurrence or series of occurrences having the same origin, involving one or more vessels, facilities, or any combination thereof, resulting in the discharge or substantial threat of discharge of oil into or upon navigable waters or adjoining shorelines or the Exclusive Economic Zone, as defined in section 1001(14) of OPA (33 U.S.C. 2701(14)).

Under OPA, there are also several exclusions listed in the NRDAR regulations (15 CFR 990.41(a)(2)that will preclude the trustees from pursuing a case.  If the incident is: (i) Permitted under a permit issued under federal, state, or local law; (ii) From a public vessel; or (iii) From an onshore facility subject to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authority Act, 43 U.S.C. 1651, seq.; then it is exempt.

During this phase, a Preassessment Screen (PAS) is prepared to answer the following questions:

1.            Has a discharge/release occurred?

2.            Is a trust resource likely to be injured?

3.            Is the quantity and concentration sufficient to potentially cause injury?

4.            Is sufficient data available/obtainable at a reasonable cost?

5.            Are response actions insufficient to restore natural resource injury? (43 CFR § 11.23(e))

Under CERCLA, there are several exclusions listed in the NRDAR regulations (43 CFR § 11.24(b)(1)) that will preclude the trustees from pursuing a case:

a.            Irreversible/irretrievable commitment through NEPA

b.            Release entirely before the enactment of CERCLA, December 1980

c.             Regulated pesticide used legally under FIFRA

 d.           Federally permitted release

Once the preassessment phase has been completed and the trustees have determined that they have a viable case, the next step is the Assessment Plan Phase.

Assessment Planning and Implementation

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