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US Laws and Regulations

Natural Resource Damages Under US Laws

Liability for natural resource damages was first introduced in 1980 under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or "Superfund"). Under CERCLA and other federal laws and laws in more than 40 states, federal, state, local and tribal officials (natural resource "trustees") may file claims on behalf of the public to recover damages from responsible parties to restore injured, destroyed or lost natural resources (land, fish, wildlife, biota, air, water, groundwater, drinking water supplies and resources).

Companies that are, or have been, owners or operators of vessels or facilities disposing or transporting hazardous waste or whose operations have, or may in the future, result in a release of oil, should be aware of the potential liability for natural resource damages under a variety of federal, state and local laws. Liability for natural resource damages may arise at sites involving historical contamination, instantaneous oil spills or accidents involving the release(s) of oil or hazardous substances.

Liability for NRDs is in addition to site remediation or "clean up" requirements and may include the costs to restore and/or replace the resource, compensation for lost uses ("services") of the resource and trustee assessment costs.

Two sets of federal regulations (see below) provide the overall construct for performing natural resource damage assessments (NRDAs), both involving sequential phases of assessment and restoration. The overall goal of the NRDA process is to restore the services provided by injured natural resources to its baseline through restoration or replacement of the resource, or acquisition of an equivalent resource.

Federal Statutes

Federal Regulations