HOWS DO U.S. GOVERNMENT AGENCIES PREPARE FOR AND RESPOND TO AN OIL SPILL?
Federal, state, and local government agencies work together in the event of an oil spill. Well before a spill might occur, these various levels of government are engaged with preventing and preparing for potential spill scenarios. Many federal agencies would be involved in an Arctic oil spill, since marine waters are under federal jurisdiction. Let’s take a look at three federal agencies to get a sense of their missions in regards to oil spills:
1. (USCG) The US Coast Guard is charged with responding to spills, to help coordinate response rather than to bring cleanup equipment. They also help run the National Response Center for reporting oil spills and other pollution events.
2. (BSEE) The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s current strategic goals include forming regulations that will promote safety in regards to exploration and use of the Outer Continental Shelf. BSEE also inspects oil operations and investigates any spills that cause injuries.
3. (USARC) The US Arctic Research Commission works on developing a national Arctic research policy and coordinating local, federal, and international Arctic research (including research on oil spills in Arctic waters).
Looking at these agencies, you will notice multiple goals: response, enforcement, and research. The USCG, BSEE, and USARC focus mainly on these missions, but the extent of what they do in regards to oil spills does not end there. If you look at the resources below and explore each agency’s webpage, you will notice a diversity of responsibilities for each agency. For example, BSEE is engaged with regulations and enforcement, but also helps fund and promote oil spill response research.
The best way to become familiar with the different tasks of government agencies and departments is to dive into the following resources.
PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.defenseimagery.mil/imageRetrieve.action?guid=c6a15924f1b20037... US Coast Guard Cutter near Barrow, Alaska, during Operation Arctic Shield, Aug. 2012.
Do not be overwhelmed by the sheer number of government agencies that are involved in oil spill prevention and response. To create an interpretative opportunity, become familiar with a few agencies and a few different ways in which they are involved.
BSEE (Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement) Oil Spill Response Research
Under the DOI (Department of the Interior) BSEE takes charge of prevention of and preparedness for oil spills. The BSEE conducts inspections of oil operations, both planned and unannounced. It also investigates any offshore oil events that result in injury or pollution. The BSEE has an Oil Spill Response and Research (OSRR) division which researches “methods and technologies used for oil spill detection, containment, treatment, recovery and cleanup.” This resource will link you to many research projects that BSEE has funded to prepare for Arctic oil spills.
If you are interested in other DOI agencies that are involved in oil spill preparedness, search on the following agencies' websites:
o BOEM-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
o ONRR-Office of National Resources Revenue
o USFWS-US Fish and Wildlife Service
o USGS-US Geological Survey
ICCOPR (Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research)
There are many branches of the federal government involved in the funding and execution of oil spill research. They are coordinated through the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research (ICCOPR) which was created as part of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. ICCOPR works on researching nationwide plans for oil pollution and coordinating efforts between different public and private research institutions, nationally and internationally.
NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) Office of Response & Restoration
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) contributes 24-7 support for oil spills in coastal waters. They provide scientific knowledge to assist Coast Guard operations and to analyze potential effects on coastal animals, habitats and people.
EPA (Environmental Protection Agency): "Oil Spills"
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states their oil spill related mission as: “EPA seeks to prevent, prepare for, and respond to oil spills that occur in and around inland waters of the United States. EPA is the lead federal response agency for oil spills occurring in inland waters.” Follow links to learn more about EPA's reponse to oil spills.
NASA Imagery of Oil Spills
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has no on-going research or response preparations. However, the agency’s resources are often used post disaster, to track the spread of oil slicks on the surface of the ocean from space. See photos of oil spills taken by NASA by following this link.
Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation: Division of Spill Prevention and Response (SPAR)
The Division of Spill Prevention and Response protects Alaskan land and water from hazardous spills through prevention, preparedness and response. SPAR assists with cleaning contaminated sites, making sure industry is prepared, participating in emergency response and recovering funds after the cleanup of a spill event. If you are interested in the specific Subarea Plan for response to spills on the North Slope, click here.
Alaska Regional Response Team (ARRT)
An Alaskan entity, the Alaska Regional Response Team (ARRT) coordinates federal, state and local government in Alaska to respond to pollution events. Find links to the Unified Plan, "The Alaska Federal and State Preparedness Plan for Response to Oil and Hazardous Substance Discharges and Releases" and the Subarea Contingency Plans for specific regions in Alaska.