National Response Team (NRT) Member Roles and Responsibilities

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

EPA personnel chair the NRT and co-chair all Regional Response Teams (RRTs). EPA provides On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs), scientific support coordinators for inland spills, and Remedial Project Managers for hazardous waste remedial actions under Superfund. EPA funds the Environmental Response Team (ERT), which is dispatched at the OSC's request to any response episode exceeding available regional resources. The ERT can provide support for site assessments, health and safety issues, action plan development, and contamination monitoring. EPA also provided legal expertise to interpret environmental statutes.

U.S. Coast Guard

An agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Coast Guard serves as Vice Chair for the NRT. U.S. Coast Guard provides OSCs for coastal zones and co-chairs all RRTs. 24 hour-a-day staffed facilities in 46 "Captain of the Port Zones" are maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, for command, control, and surveillance of releases in coastal waters. The U.S. Coast Guard manages the National Response Center and maintains a National Strike Force, which is specially trained and equipped to respond to major marine pollution incidents. The U.S. Coast Guard's Strike Teams are based on the Pacific and Gulf Coasts.

The U.S. Commandant of the Coast Guard also serves as fund manager for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) set up under the Clean Water Act. The National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC) manages funds for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) and is an independent unit of the U.S. Coast Guard. In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard District Response Group (DRG) provides a framework for the Coast Guard districts to organize their response operations. The DRG consists of all Coast Guard units, personnel and equipment within a district's boundary, all pre-positioned response equipment strategically located in the district, and the District Response Advisory Team.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

During a response effort, FEMA advises and aids lead agencies in coordinating relocation assistance. The agency provides guidance, policy, and technical assistance in emergency preparedness planning, training, and exercising activities for state and local governments.

Department of Defense (DOD)

DOD acts when oil or hazardous substances are released from a facility or vessel under its jurisdiction. Upon request, DoD will provide U.S. Navy oil spill containment and recovery equipment and manpower, as well as equipment for ship salvaging, shipboard damage control, and diving. DoD can also make U.S. Army Corp of Engineer equipment and expertise available for removing navigational obstructions and performing ship structural repairs.

Department of Energy (DOE)

DOE provides OSCs when hazardous substances are released from DOE facilities, or when materials being transported under DOE's control are spilled. DOE staff aids in the control of immediate radiological hazards.

Department of Agriculture (USDA)

USDA measures, evaluates, and monitors situations where natural resources, including soil, water, wildlife, and vegetation have been affected by hazardous substances. USDA contributes expertise from the following organizations:

Department of Commerce

This department, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), provides scientific support for resources and contingency planning in coastal and marine areas including hazard assessment and spill trajectory (direction) monitoring to predict movement and dispersion of oil and other hazardous substances. NOAA contributes information about sensitive coastal environments, and furnishes data about actual and predicted meteorological, hydrological, ice, and oceanographic conditions. NOAA also serves as the natural resource trustee for the living marine resources it manages and protects. NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration works to remediate damage to coastline and marine resources caused by oil and hazardous substance releases. Their scientists analyze and identify solutions to environmental contamination.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Health hazards at a response are assessed by HHS. Agencies within HHS that maintain and provide information on health effects include the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the National Institutes for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). NIEHS also offers training on the health effects of oil spills. HHS also provides technical guidance regarding worker health and safety through the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Department of Interior (DOI)

DOI contributes expertise on natural resources, endangered species, and federal lands and waters, and is responsible for native Americans and U.S. territories. Regional Environmental Officers of DOI are designated members of RRTs DOI serves as a natural resource trustee for the resources it manages or protects. Bureaus within the department with expertise include:

  • Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Geological Survey Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Minerals Management Service
  • Bureau of Mines
  • National Park Service
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement
  • Office of Territorial Affairs

Department of Justice (DOJ)

DOJ provides expert advice on legal questions arising from discharges or releases, and federal agency responses, can be obtained from this agency. DOJ represents the federal government in litigation relating to discharges or releases.

Department of Labor (DOL)

Through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, DOL conducts safety and health inspections of hazardous waste sites to ensure that onsite employees are protected from hazards and to determine if a site is in compliance with safety and health standards and regulations.

Department of Transportation (DOT)

In addition to the activities of the U.S. Coast Guard, response expertise is provided by DOT pertaining to transportation of oil or hazardous substances through the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA). RSPA offers specialized advice on requirements of packaging, handling, and transporting regulated hazardous materials. RSPA serves other functions, including promulgating and enforcing hazardous materials regulations (49 CFR Part 100.199), producing emergency response guidebooks, and supporting protective action decision strategies and exercise scenarios.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

When radioactive materials by its licensees are released, the NRC responds in accordance with its incident response plan.

Department of State

The Department of State takes the lead in developing international contingency plans. It helps coordinate international response efforts, when discharges or releases cross international boundaries or involve foreign flag vessels. The agency also coordinates requests for aid from foreign governments.

U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy Superintendent of Salvage and Diving has extensive equipment and expertise for supporting responses to open-sea pollution incidents. Specialized capabilities include salvage, firefighting, and petroleum, oil and lubricants offloading.

Other federal agencies may also provide support when the NRT is activated.

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