U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
Regulations most recently checked for updates: Sep 26, 2023
(a) A discharge of oil may be discovered through:
(1) A report submitted by the person in charge of a vessel or facility, in accordance with statutory requirements;
(2) Deliberate search by patrols;
(3) Random or incidental observation by government agencies or the public; or
(4) Other sources.
(b) Any person in charge of a vessel or a facility shall, as soon as he or she has knowledge of any discharge from such vessel or facility in violation of section 311(b)(3) of the CWA, immediately notify the NRC. If direct reporting to the NRC is not practicable, reports may be made to the USCG or EPA predesignated OSC for the geographic area where the discharge occurs. The EPA predesignated OSC may also be contacted through the regional 24-hour emergency response telephone number. All such reports shall be promptly relayed to the NRC. If it is not possible to notify the NRC or predesignated OSC immediately, reports may be made immediately to the nearest Coast Guard unit. In any event such person in charge of the vessel or facility shall notify the NRC as soon as possible.
(c) Any other person shall, as appropriate, notify the NRC of a discharge of oil.
(d) Upon receipt of a notification of discharge, the NRC shall promptly notify the OSC. The OSC shall ensure notification of the appropriate state agency of any state which is, or may reasonably be expected to be, affected by the discharge. The OSC shall then proceed with the following phases as outlined in the RCP and ACP.
(a) The OSC is responsible for promptly initiating a preliminary assessment.
(b) The preliminary assessment shall be conducted using available information, supplemented where necessary and possible by an on-scene inspection. The OSC shall undertake actions to:
(1) Evaluate the magnitude and severity of the discharge or threat to public health or welfare of the United States or the environment;
(2) Assess the feasibility of removal; and
(3) To the extent practicable, identify potentially responsible parties.
(c) Where practicable, the framework for the response management structure is a system (e.g., a unified command system), that brings together the functions of the federal government, the state government, and the responsible party to achieve an effective and efficient response, where the OSC maintains authority.
(d) Except in a case when the OSC is required to direct the response to a discharge that may pose a substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States (including but not limited to fish, shellfish, wildlife, other natural resources, and the public and private beaches and shorelines of the United States), the OSC may allow the responsible party to voluntarily and promptly perform removal actions, provided the OSC determines such actions will ensure an effective and immediate removal of the discharge or mitigation or prevention of a substantial threat of a discharge. If the responsible party does conduct the removal, the OSC shall ensure adequate surveillance over whatever actions are initiated. If effective actions are not being taken to eliminate the threat, or if removal is not being properly done, the OSC should, to the extent practicable under the circumstances, so advise the responsible party. If the responsible party does not respond properly the OSC shall take appropriate response actions and should notify the responsible party of the potential liability for federal response costs incurred by the OSC pursuant to the OPA and CWA. Where practicable, continuing efforts should be made to encourage response by responsible parties.
(1) In carrying out a response under this section, the OSC may:
(i) Remove or arrange for the removal of a discharge, and mitigate or prevent a substantial threat of a discharge, at any time;
(ii) Direct or monitor all federal, state, and private actions to remove a discharge; and
(iii) Remove and, if necessary, destroy a vessel discharging, or threatening to discharge, by whatever means are available.
(2) If the discharge results in a substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States (including, but not limited to fish, shellfish, wildlife, other natural resources, and the public and private beaches and shorelines of the United States), the OSC must direct all response efforts, as provided in § 300.322(b) of this part. The OSC should declare as expeditiously as practicable to spill response participants that the federal government will direct the response. The OSC may act without regard to any other provision of the law governing contracting procedures or employment of personnel by the federal government in removing or arranging for the removal of such a discharge.
(e) The OSC shall ensure that the natural resource trustees are promptly notified in the event of any discharge of oil, to the maximum extent practicable as provided in the Fish and Wildlife and Sensitive Environments Plan annex to the ACP for the area in which the discharge occurs. The OSC and the trustees shall coordinate assessments, evaluations, investigations, and planning with respect to appropriate removal actions. The OSC shall consult with the affected trustees on the appropriate removal action to be taken. The trustees will provide timely advice concerning recommended actions with regard to trustee resources potentially affected. The trustees also will assure that the OSC is informed of their activities in natural resource damage assessment that may affect response operations. The trustees shall assure, through the lead administrative trustee, that all data from the natural resource damage assessment activities that may support more effective operational decisions are provided in a timely manner to the OSC. When circumstances permit, the OSC shall share the use of non-monetary response resources (i.e., personnel and equipment) with the trustees, provided trustee activities do not interfere with response actions. The lead administrative trustee facilitates effective and efficient communication between the OSC and the other trustees during response operations and is responsible for applying to the OSC for non-monetary federal response resources on behalf of all trustees. The lead administrative trustee is also responsible for applying to the NPFC for funding for initiation of damage assessment for injuries to natural resources.
(a) Defensive actions shall begin as soon as possible to prevent, minimize, or mitigate threat(s) to the public health or welfare of the United States or the environment. Actions may include but are not limited to: Analyzing water samples to determine the source and spread of the oil; controlling the source of discharge; measuring and sampling; source and spread control or salvage operations; placement of physical barriers to deter the spread of the oil and to protect natural resources and sensitive ecosystems; control of the water discharged from upstream impoundment; and the use of chemicals and other materials in accordance with subpart J of this part to restrain the spread of the oil and mitigate its effects. The ACP prepared under § 300.210(c) should be consulted for procedures to be followed for obtaining an expedited decision regarding the use of dispersants and other products listed on the NCP Product Schedule.
(b) As appropriate, actions shall be taken to recover the oil or mitigate its effects. Of the numerous chemical or physical methods that may be used, the chosen methods shall be the most consistent with protecting public health and welfare and the environment. Sinking agents shall not be used.
(c) Oil and contaminated materials recovered in cleanup operations shall be disposed of in accordance with the RCP, ACP, and any applicable laws, regulations, or requirements. RRT and Area Committee guidelines may identify the disposal options available during an oil spill response and may describe what disposal requirements are mandatory or may not be waived by the OSC. ACP guidelines should address: the sampling, testing, and classifying of recovered oil and oiled debris; the segregation, temporary storage, and stockpiling of recovered oil and oiled debris; prior state disposal approvals and permits; and the routes; methods (e.g. recycle/reuse, on-site burning, incineration, landfilling, etc.); and sites for the disposal of collected oil, oiled debris, and animal carcasses; and procedures for obtaining waivers, exemptions, or authorizations associated with handling or transporting waste materials. The ACPs may identify a hierarchy of preferences for disposal alternatives, with recycling (reprocessing) being the most preferred, and other alternatives preferred based on priorities for health or the environment.
(a) All OSLTF users need to collect and maintain documentation to support all actions taken under the CWA. In general, documentation shall be sufficient to support full cost recovery for resources utilized and shall identify the source and circumstances of the incident, the responsible party or parties, and impacts and potential impacts to public health and welfare and the environment. Documentation procedures are contained in 33 CFR part 136.
(b) When appropriate, documentation shall also be collected for scientific understanding of the environment and for research and development of improved response methods and technology. Funding for these actions is restricted by section 6002 of the OPA.
(c) OSCs shall submit OSC reports to the NRT or RRT, only if requested, as provided by § 300.165.
(d) OSCs shall ensure the necessary collection and safeguarding of information, samples, and reports. Samples and information shall be gathered expeditiously during the response to ensure an accurate record of the impacts incurred. Documentation materials shall be made available to the trustees of affected natural resources. The OSC shall make available to trustees of the affected natural resources information and documentation in the OSC's possession that can assist the trustees in the determination of actual or potential natural resource injuries.
(e) Information and reports obtained by the EPA or USCG OSC shall be transmitted to the appropriate offices responsible for follow-up actions.
(a) Safety of human life must be given the top priority during every response action. This includes any search and rescue efforts in the general proximity of the discharge and the insurance of safety of response personnel.
(b) Stabilizing the situation to preclude the event from worsening is the next priority. All efforts must be focused on saving a vessel that has been involved in a grounding, collision, fire, or explosion, so that it does not compound the problem. Comparable measures should be taken to stabilize a situation involving a facility, pipeline, or other source of pollution. Stabilizing the situation includes securing the source of the spill and/or removing the remaining oil from the container (vessel, tank, or pipeline) to prevent additional oil spillage, to reduce the need for follow-up response action, and to minimize adverse impact to the environment.
(c) The response must use all necessary containment and removal tactics in a coordinated manner to ensure a timely, effective response that minimizes adverse impact to the environment.
(d) All parts of this national response strategy should be addressed concurrently, but safety and stabilization are the highest priorities. The OSC should not delay containment and removal decisions unnecessarily and should take actions to minimize adverse impact to the environment that begins as soon as a discharge occurs, as well as actions to minimize further adverse environmental impact from additional discharges.
(e) The priorities set forth in this section are broad in nature, and should not be interpreted to preclude the consideration of other priorities that may arise on a site-specific basis.
(a) When the OSC receives a report of a discharge, actions normally should be taken in the following sequence:
(1) Investigate the report to determine pertinent information such as the threat posed to public health or welfare of the United States or the environment, the type and quantity of polluting material, and the source of the discharge.
(2) Officially classify the size (i.e., minor, medium, major) and type (i.e., substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States, worst case discharge) of the discharge and determine the course of action to be followed to ensure effective and immediate removal, mitigation, or prevention of the discharge. Some discharges that are classified as a substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States may be further classified as a spill of national significance by the Administrator of EPA or the Commandant of the USCG. The appropriate course of action may be prescribed in §§ 300.322, 300.323, and 300.324.
(i) When the reported discharge is an actual or potential major discharge, the OSC shall immediately notify the RRT and the NRC.
(ii) When the investigation shows that an actual or potential medium discharge exists, the OSC shall recommend activation of the RRT, if appropriate.
(iii) When the investigation shows that an actual or potential minor discharge exists, the OSC shall monitor the situation to ensure that proper removal action is being taken.
(3) If the OSC determines that effective and immediate removal, mitigation, or prevention of a discharge can be achieved by private party efforts, and where the discharge does not pose a substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States, determine whether the responsible party or other person is properly carrying out removal. Removal is being done properly when:
(i) The responsible party is applying the resources called for in its response plan to effectively and immediately remove, minimize, or mitigate threat(s) to public health and welfare and the environment; and
(ii) The removal efforts are in accordance with applicable regulations, including the NCP. Even if the OSC supplements responsible party resources with government resources, the spill response will not be considered improper, unless specifically determined by the OSC.
(4) Where appropriate, determine whether a state or political subdivision thereof has the capability to carry out any or all removal actions. If so, the OSC may arrange funding to support these actions.
(5) Ensure prompt notification of the trustees of affected natural resources in accordance with the applicable RCP and ACP.
(b) Removal shall be considered complete when so determined by the OSC in consultation with the Governor or Governors of the affected states. When the OSC considers removal complete, OSLTF removal funding shall end. This determination shall not preclude additional removal actions under applicable state law.
(a) As part of the investigation described in § 300.320, the OSC shall determine whether a discharge results in a substantial threat to public health or welfare of the United States (including, but not limited to, fish, shellfish, wildlife, other natural resources, and the public and private beaches and shorelines of the United States). Factors to be considered by the OSC in making this determination include, but are not limited to, the size of the discharge, the character of the discharge, and the nature of the threat to public health or welfare of the United States. Upon obtaining such information, the OSC shall conduct an evaluation of the threat posed, based on the OSC's experience in assessing other discharges, and consultation with senior lead agency officials and readily available authorities on issues outside the OSC's technical expertise.
(b) If the investigation by the OSC shows that the discharge poses or may present a substantial threat to public health or welfare of the United States, the OSC shall direct all federal, state, or private actions to remove the discharge or to mitigate or prevent the threat of such a discharge, as appropriate. In directing the response in such cases, the OSC may act without regard to any other provision of law governing contracting procedures or employment of personnel by the federal government to:
(1) Remove or arrange for the removal of the discharge;
(2) Mitigate or prevent the substantial threat of the discharge; and
(3) Remove and, if necessary, destroy a vessel discharging, or threatening to discharge, by whatever means are available.
(c) In the case of a substantial threat to public health or welfare of the United States, the OSC shall:
(1) Assess opportunities for the use of various special teams and other assistance described in § 300.145, including the use of the services of the NSFCC, as appropriate;
(2) Request immediate activation of the RRT; and
(3) Take whatever additional response actions are deemed appropriate, including, but not limited to, implementation of the ACP as required by section 311(j)(4) of the CWA or relevant tank vessel or facility response plan required by section 311(j)(5) of the CWA. When requested by the OSC, the lead agency or RRT shall dispatch appropriate personnel to the scene of the discharge to assist the OSC. This assistance may include technical support in the agency's areas of expertise and disseminating information to the public. The lead agency shall ensure that a contracting officer is available on scene, at the request of the OSC.
(a) A discharge may be classified as a spill of national significance (SONS) by the Administrator of EPA for discharges occurring in the inland zone and the Commandant of the USCG for discharges occurring in the coastal zone.
(b) For a SONS in the inland zone, the EPA Administrator may name a senior Agency official to assist the OSC in communicating with affected parties and the public and coordinating federal, state, local, and international resources at the national level. This strategic coordination will involve, as appropriate, the NRT, RRT(s), the Governor(s) of affected state(s), and the mayor(s) or other chief executive(s) of local government(s).
(c) For a SONS in the coastal zone, the USCG Commandant may name a National Incident Commander (NIC) who will assume the role of the OSC in communicating with affected parties and the public, and coordinating federal, state, local, and international resources at the national level. This strategic coordination will involve, as appropriate, the NRT, RRT(s), the Governor(s) of affected state(s), and the mayor(s) or other chief executive(s) of local government(s).
(a) If the investigation by the OSC shows that a discharge is a worst case discharge as defined in the ACP, or there is a substantial threat of such a discharge, the OSC shall:
(1) Notify the NSFCC;
(2) Require, where applicable, implementation of the worst case portion of an approved tank vessel or facility response plan required by section 311(j)(5) of the CWA;
(3) Implement the worst case portion of the ACP required by section 311(j)(4) of the CWA; and
(4) Take whatever additional response actions are deemed appropriate.
(b) Under the direction of the OSC, the NSFCC shall coordinate use of private and public personnel and equipment, including strike teams, to remove a worst case discharge and mitigate or prevent a substantial threat of such a discharge.
(a) The OSLTF is available under certain circumstances to fund removal of oil performed under section 311 of the CWA. Those circumstances and the procedures for accessing the OSLTF are described in 33 CFR part 136. The responsible party is liable for costs of federal removal and damages in accordance with section 311(f) of the CWA, section 1002 of the OPA, and other federal laws.
(b) Where the OSC requests assistance from a federal agency, that agency may be reimbursed in accordance with the provisions of 33 CFR part 136. Specific interagency reimbursement agreements may be used when necessary to ensure that the federal resources will be available for a timely response to a discharge of oil.
(c) Procedures for funding the initiation of natural resource damage assessment are covered in 33 CFR part 136.
(d) Response actions other than removal, such as scientific investigations not in support of removal actions or law enforcement, shall be provided by the agency with legal responsibility for those specific actions.
(e) The funding of a response to a discharge from a federally owned, operated, or supervised facility or vessel is the responsibility of the owning, operating, or supervising agency if it is a responsible party.
(f) The following agencies have funds available for certain discharge removal actions:
(1) DOD has two specific sources of funds that may be applicable to an oil discharge under appropriate circumstances. This does not consider military resources that might be made available under specific conditions.
(i) Funds required for removal of a sunken vessel or similar obstruction of navigation are available to the Corps of Engineers through Civil Works Appropriations, Operations and Maintenance, General.
(ii) USN may conduct salvage operations contingent on defense operational commitments, when funded by the requesting agency. Such funding may be requested on a direct cite basis.
(2) Pursuant to Title I of the OPA, the state or states affected by a discharge of oil may act where necessary to remove such discharge. Pursuant to 33 CFR part 136 states may be reimbursed from the OSLTF for the reasonable costs incurred in such a removal.