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Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects
The U.S. Coast Guard is designated as the Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC) responsible for ensuring a safe and effective response to all discharges of oil into the marine environment, Great Lakes, and major navigable rivers. The U.S. Coast Guard is also designated, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as co-chairs for the RRT. At the time of an oil spill incident, a FOSC may authorize the use of dispersants on oil discharges upon concurrence of the federal co-chairs and the state representative to the RRT and in consultation with the federal natural resource trustee agencies, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) and U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). In an effort to compensate for the need to make a rapid decision regarding dispersant use early in the timeline of a spill, the NRT revised the National Contingency Plan to require both Area Committees and RRTs to address, as part of their planning activities, the desirability of using appropriate dispersants and the development of preauthorization plans (40 CFR 300.910). The status of pre-approval for dispersants in the United States, as of the publishing of this report, is presented in Appendix B and summarized in Figure 2-1. This information includes the status of dispersant-use approval zones; the conditions and zones where pre-approval exists (if applicable); and the status of monitoring and Section 7 consultation requirements. Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act requires consultation with the appropriate natural resource trustees prior to taking an action that may impact any federally listed species. Approval for use of dispersants, during both planning and emergency phases, falls into this category. Therefore, for purposes of dispersant use planning, any pre-approval agreement is subject to consultation with the trustee agencies prior to its implementation.
Pre-approval agreements are drafted at the local area and regional levels, either through the auspices of RRTs or through the Area Committee planning process; therefore some variations in terminology have developed in the agreements themselves or in the supporting literature. In this report the terms “case-by-case approval,” “expedited approval,” and “pre-approval” are used to describe the decision-making mechanism governing a given location, as defined below.
(also referred to as incident-specific RRT approval)
The use of dispersants in each incident requires the FOSC to seek and gain approval from the RRT. The RRT reaches its approval through the concurrence of the U.S. Coast Guard and EPA co-chairs and affected state(s) and in consultation with DOI and DOC.