A small Gulf Coast Community in Florida has requested the implementation of a contingency plan in the event of an oil spill that affects the coast line. This paper discusses the regulations, and laws that govern an oil spill and who is responsible for monetary and geographical land damage. Who will be the responsible party to clean up and restore the coast line back to its natural condition?
Who is responsible for reimbursement for lost revenues due to an oil spill along the coast line? What types of legal remedies are there for financial relief of lost revenues to business and citizens of the community? What types of policies should be created to protect the financial variables and geographic location. How much will the implementation of a plan cost. How can we implement these items and maintain a plan that protects the financial and geography of this community?
OIL SPILL MITIGATION PLANNING AND MONETARY RECOVERY Introduction
The Florida Gulf Coast is known for its beautiful beaches and waterways. Every year thousands of tourists flock to the coast line and enjoy the warm summers in the waters and beaches of Florida. With a total revenue of $57 billion a year, an oil spill along the Gulf Coast could devastate this money and bring financial hardship to small business (Bert & Clayton, 2012) . The communities along the Gulf Coast have taken advantage of these beaches through tourism and the amount of money it brings to each community. In the past a large oil spill caused great damage to beaches in other states.
The communities of the Florida Gulf Coast are now inquiring as to the laws, regulations, prevention, reimbursement, and remediation in the event an oil spill was to threaten or come ashore in the community. The community is also inquiring as to the cost factor in implementing a plan to protect their beaches. Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Oil Spills
Rules and regulations govern certain acts of pollution. There are numerous laws enacted to protect the water ways, but the rules also protect the beaches and coastline in which people travel to each day. Certain rules will protect an oil spill out to a certain distance in the open water, but when the spill encroaches on beaches the Federal rules and regulations might broaden to encompass state and local rules and ordinances. The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) was signed into law in August 1990. This was done due to the rising public concern over the Exxon Valdez oil spill (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2011).
This act improved the nation’s ability to prevent and respond to oil spills by expanding the federal government’s ability to respond and provide the money and resources necessary in the event of a catastrophic oil spill. There are many key provisions of the Oil Pollution Act. They are designed to protect and help fund the cleanup through fines against the company and third parties causing the spill. * § 1002 (a) - Provides that the responsible party for the vessel or facility in which the oil is discharged is liable for (1) certain specified damages resulting from the discharged oil; and (2) removal cost incurred in a manner consistent with the National Contingency Plan (NCP).
* § 1002 (d) - Provides that if a responsible party can establish that the removal costs and damages resulting from an incident were caused solely by an act or omission by a third party, the third party will be held liable for such costs and damages. * § 1004 – The liability for tank vessels larger than 3,000 gross tons is increased to $1,200 per gross ton or $10 million, whichever is greater. Parties at offshore facilities and deep water ports are liable for up to $350 million per spill. Holder of leases or permits for offshore facilities, except deep water ports, are liable for up to $75 million per spill.
The Federal government has the authority to adjust, by regulation, the $350 million liability for onshore facilities (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2011). The Clean Water Act does not preempt State Law. States may impose additional liability (including but limited to unlimited liability), funding mechanisms, requirements for removal actions, and fines and penalties for the responsible parties. The state has the authority to enforce, OPA requirements on its navigational water ways when dealing with the evidence of financial responsibility.
Who is Responsible for the Clean Up? In the United States, there are coordinated teams of local, state, and national resources that are called upon to help contain the spill, clean it up, and ensure that damage to human health and the environment is reduced to the lowest possible loss.
One of these organizations is the National Response System. It was not until 1967 that his team was formed (Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). A team from the United States was sent to the spill site and observed the cleanup and with this valuable information returned and developed the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP).
This plan was signed into law on November 13, 1968(Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). This established what is today known as the National Response System. This team consists of indivuals and teams from local, state, and federal agencies. They combine their expertise and resources to ensure that an oil spill is controlled and that cleanup activities are timely, efficient, and minimize threats to human health and the environment. There are three major partners of the NRS:
I. On-Scene Coordinators (OSC) – They are the most prominent role in the NRS. These personnel federal officials responsible for directing response actions and coordinating all other efforts at the scene. There are four federal agencies that have to staff and serve as OSCs’: United States Coast Guard (USCG), United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), United States Department of Energy (DOE), and United States Deprtment of Defense (DOD). Among all the agencies the Coast Guard and the EPA have the greatest responsibility for responding to oil spill emergencies.
The OSC’s must evaluate the size and nature of the spill and determine it potential hazards. The OSC in charge will determine the estimated resources needed to contain and clean it up. They will also assess the ability of the responsible party or local authorities on how they can perform the cleanup. If the spill encroaches on local waters, the local Coast Guard Commander is the OSC.
They are responsible for four main tasks; assessment, monitoring, response assistance, and reporting. II. Regional Response Teams (RRT) - This is another major component of the NRS. There are a total of 13 RRTs in the United States (Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). They are separated by geographic regions in the United States. RRTs are composed of representatives from states and from field offices of the federal agencies that make up the National Response Team.
The RRT provide assistance when it is requested by the OSC and they may respond to the scene. The four major responsibilities for RRTs are; response, planning, training, and coordination. III. National Response Team (NRT) – It is the third major component of the NRS. It is organized by 16 federal agencies. Each agency has it owns responsibility in environmental areas and provides expertise in various areas of emergency response. The EPA seves as the NRT’s chair and the Coast Guard serves as the vice chair.
The NRT does not respond directly to incidents, however it is responsible for; distributing information, planning for emergencies, and training for emergencies. The NRT supports RRTs by reviewing Regional Contingency Plans and ensuring they are consistent with national policies. IV. Special Forces – These are national resources with unique expertise. When first responders (local responders to the area) face difficult problems, they are the ones that request Special Forces to assist.
The NCP is consisted of five special force components: the Coast Guard National Strike Force (NSF), the Coast Guard Public Information Assist Team (PIAT), the EPA Environmental Response Team (ERT), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Scientific Support Coordinators (SSCs), and National Resource Trustees. This team provides special trained personnel equipped to handle major incidents.
The NRS is the mechanism established by the federal government to respond to discharges of oil into the navigable waters of the United States. Their main mission is to provide support to the state and local response activities. During oil spill events, they cooperate to ensure that all necessary resources are available for and that containment, cleanup, and disposal activities are timely, efficient, and effective. Who is Going to Pay to Protect and Clean the Beaches
According to the OPA it has created strict liability for a variety of damages resulting from an oil spill coming ashore. As stated above the company or third party who is responsible for the release and damage to the shoreline will be responsible for the complete removal cost and re-nourishment of affected area.
This covers both the government and individuals. If there is natural resource damage the total cost of restoring, rehabilitating, replacing and/or acquiring the equivalent of the damaged natural resources; the diminution in value pending restoration; and cost of assessing the damages. State and Federal trustees, acting on behalf of the public, are responsible for calculating these damages and overseeing a plan for the resource restoration. The trustee’s calculations can create and be rebutted in court. Who is Going to Pay for the Lost Revenue to the Community?
An administrative compensation program should be set up for financial compensation to businesses and the community. During the BP oils spill a special compensation scheme was set up and through negotiations with President Obama. At the end of the negotiations, BP set up a $20 billion fund for damages (Viscusi & Zeckhauser, 2011). The same would be done in an event that affects our community. Through the Federal Government, a specific fund would be negotiated and a special claims unit set up for the home and business owner to apply.
The participation in this program is strictly voluntary. The people could choose to file for damages claim without being awarded money through the financial structure that is set up. In order for the claim to be paid, some sort of financial damage needs to be shown in association with the oil spill. The particular categories that cover a financial loss are in conjunction with those under the OPA and include claims for removal and cleanup costs, damage to real or personal property, lost earning and profit, loss of subsistence use of natural resources, or physical injury or death.
The fund will not cover nonfinancial harms, such as mental anguish and stress resulting from damages from the oils spill. The fund should also have a clause for governmental testing of seafood that is affected in that area. For any compensation system, questions will always be asked if the calculations and payments were accurate and did they address all the losses associated with the claim. What Policies Do We Have in Place to Protect Our Self?
The state of Florida has established its own state-specific reporting and cleanup requirements. Under Florida Statute FAC 62-770.160 (State Of Florida, 2005) the chapter is established for the purpose of protecting the human health, public safety, and the environment of the actual spill The State of Florida performs a risk assessment process. It is listed under FAC 62-770.650 (State Of Florida, 2005). It encourages business and home owners to have discussions with the applicable department at various decision points to establish applicable exposure factors, relevant receptors and risk management options based on current and projected land use. If a risk assessment is done, the assessment will:
1. Identify actual and potential exposure pathways and routes of oil seepage. 2. Identify actual and potential human and environmental receptors for exposure pathway. And sensitive sub-populations. 3. Determine expected concentrations of petroleum products’ contaminants of concern to which actual and potential human and environmental receptors may be exposed. Sampling should be taken and used in comparison prior to a spill.
4. Determine exposure factors This plan within 90 days of completion will be sent for approval through the applicable department. Once the plan is approved, it will be sent to Federal, State, and local governments for implementation in the Contingency Plan for both the state and local governments. How Much is it Going to Cost the Community to Implement the Plan?
The cost factor associated with implementing this plan can be very expensive. Depending on the type, scope, and technical needs for the plan, the cost factor can Through the Oil Pollution Act, there are many different avenues for reimbursement for implementing a plan. Some companies are mandated by law to implement a protection plan in the event of an oil spill. Others voluntarily give the assistance to train and help formulate policies and procedures that will go into effect in the event that there is a release of product from one of their owned product lines.
The local Emergency Management might also be a funding source through grants stimulated by the Federal Government. Through proper research, the administration of the community can find valuable resources in order to help fund the cost associated with designing, implementing, and maintaining a proper plan for the protection of the community. Conclusion
Oil spills impose severe external financial and environmental harms that a profitable tourism industry will not take into full account. The absence of liability and or government intervention will leave the tourism industries decisions neither socially desirable nor economically practical. Possible catastrophic environmental damage add an additional problem to the traditional other occurrences that can occur along the beach communities.
We target policies at achieving the appropriate balance between safety of our beaches and the cost that it will incur to provide this. With proper plan implementation and continual government awareness the funding and resources will continue to grow and evolve. With a proper contingency plan, support from petroleum manufactures, and strict government oversight. The planning, mitigation, and reimbursement of lost monies should be a quick and recoverable effort on all parties.
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