EPA's On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs)
On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs) are the federal officials responsible for monitoring or directing responses to all oil spills and hazardous substance releases reported to the federal government. OSCs coordinate all federal efforts with, and provides support and information to, local, state and regional response communities. An OSC is an agent of either EPA or the U.S. Coast Guard, depending on where the incident occurs. EPA's OSCs have primary responsibility for spills and releases to inland areas and waters. U.S. Coast Guard OSCs have responsibility for coastal waters and the Great Lakes. In general, an OSC has the following key responsibilities during and after a response:
Assessment involves evaluating the size and nature of a release or spill, its potential hazards, the resources needed to contain and clean it up, and the ability of the responsible party or local authorities to handle the incident. The results of the assessment are used to determine the need for personnel, equipment, and other resources to promptly and effectively combat the release.
Monitoring comprises actions taken to control and clean up a chemical release or oil spill are appropriate. Monitoring can be conducted at the site when necessary or from an agency office if the situation appears to be under control. In the case of oil spills, the OSC is legally required to monitor the response if the spill poses a substantial threat to the health and welfare of the public due to its size or characteristics.
Once a release or spill has been assessed, the OSC determines whether federal assistance will be necessary to help control and contain it. If the OSC decides that federal assistance is required, the OSC will obtain needed resources such as personnel and equipment. If sufficient resources are not available for an incident, the OSC decides who pays and can secure federal funding either from the Superfund trust fund for hazardous substance releases or the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for oil spills. This assistance ensures that cleanup will not be hindered by a lack in availability of personnel or equipment on behalf of the local or state or responsible party resources.
Evaluating response actions provides information that is useful for designing or improving spill response plans. The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) requires that the OSC report all activities that take place during and after an incident. For example, following an oil spill, the OSC is required to file a summary report that outlines the actions taken to remedy the spill and the level of assistance provided by local, state, and federal agencies. These reports can be used to identify problem areas and can be shared with other agencies that can make recommendations for improvement.