Several federal laws charge NOAA and certain other federal agencies, states, and Indian tribes—collectively known as trustees—with protecting and restoring public natural resources that are impacted by oil spills, releases of hazardous substances, and ship groundings. NOAA is a federal trustee for coastal and marine natural resources, including marine and migratory fish, endangered species, marine mammals, and their habitats.
The Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) fulfills NOAA’s trustee responsibilities by conducting certain key actions after hazardous materials or oil are released into the ocean, marshes, lakes, and rivers.
- Environmental protection during cleanup. During cleanup of an oil spill or hazardous waste release, OR&R experts provide guidance to agencies leading the cleanup (e.g. the U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) to maximize the benefits of the cleanup while minimizing any adverse effects that may occur to natural resources during a cleanup.
- Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). The NRDA process determines the extent of harm to natural resources and their uses and the appropriate type and amount of environmental restoration required to compensate the American public for those impacts.
- Environmental restoration. Through the NRDA process , NOAA works cooperatively with government agencies, Native American tribes, companies, and the public to carry out restoration projects at hazardous waste, oil spill, and vessel grounding sites.
Since 1990, more than $550 million has been recovered from responsible parties. The funds are used to restore damaged estuarine and coastal resources including wetlands, coral reefs, streams, and beaches. Environmental restoration benefits fish, birds, marine mammal habitat, and local and regional economies.