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The National Response Unit (NRU), located at the U.S. Coast Guard
Headquarters, is the national communications center for coordinating
response activities under CERCLA, 42 U.S.C. sec. 9603, and the Clean
Water Act. 33 U.S.C. sec. 1321(j)(2). The NRU receives notices of
spills, discharges or releases and relays the information to the
appropriate federal, state and/or local response teams. See 40 C.F.R.
National and Regional Response Teams.
According to the NCP, national planning and coordination is the
responsibility of a National Response Team (NRT), consisting of
representatives from all relevant federal agencies. The NRT is
responsible for maintaining the nation's ability to respond to major oil
discharges and releases of hazardous substances, for monitoring and
reviewing regional responses, and for coordinating regional, state,
local and private response actions. A Regional Response Team is
responsible for regional planning and preparation for responses. An On-
Scene Coordinator (OSC) or Remedial Project Manager (RPM) supervises
federally-funded response efforts at particular sites. Both the OSC and
RPM are designated in advance by the appropriate agency (EPA, the Coast
Guard or Department of Defense, depending on where the site is located).
The OSC is also responsible for developing federal local contingency
plans. 40 C.F.R. sec. 300.120(d).
CERCLA Cleanup Authorities.
CERCLA provides the federal government with broad authority to clean up
contaminated sites. In cases where a release of a hazardous substance
poses an "imminent and substantial endangerment" to the public health or
welfare, the EPA can also issue an order, enforceable in the federal
courts, to take all measures to respond to the site. 42 U.S.C. sec.
9606. Violations of any such order can result in fines of up to $25,000
per day and punitive damages of up to three times the government's
costs. EPA may also issue administrative orders or bring civil actions
to enforce a request for information, access to vessels or facilities,
or to inspect and obtain samples, 42 U.S.C. sec. 9604. EPA can also
impose penalties of up to $25,000 for most violations of orders or rules
issued under CERCLA. 42 U.S.C. sec. 9609. Notice and an opportunity for
public hearing must be afforded the defendants. 42 U.S.C. sec.
RCRA Cleanup Authorities.
Under RCRA, EPA has specific powers to issue an administrative order or
bring a civil suit to compel past or present hazardous waste operators
to respond to any "imminent and substantial endangerment" to health or
the environment. 42 U.S.C. sec. 6973. Notice must be given to the state,
and the public must be notified and given an opportunity to comment on
any proposed settlement. 42 U.S.C. sec. 6973(d). Violators of any order
can be fined up to $5000 for each day of violation. 42 U.S.C. sec.
6973(b). EPA may also require any owner or operator of a hazardous waste
facility to clean up any solid waste management unit located on the
facility, regardless of whether the location contains a RCRA hazardous
waste. 40 C.F.R. pt. 264, Subpt. F. EPA can also issue orders requiring
corrective actions at facilities operating under interim permits. 42
U.S.C. sec. 6928(h). All RCRA hazardous wastes are also hazardous
substances fully subject to CERCLA. See also Section 12.2: Hazardous
Oil Pollution Act Cleanup Authorities.
The OPA does not create any new cleanup authorities for EPA, but it
does allow EPA to recover costs that it incurs in cleaning up oil
discharges under authority granted by CERCLA or the CWA. 33 U.S.C. secs.
1321, 2715. For more information on the OPA, click here.
Clean Water Act.
Under the CWA, EPA has the authority to remove any contamination
resulting from a discharge of oil or hazardous substances that poses a
substantial threat or risk to public health or the environment. The
range of response authorities as well as the federal government's
ability to recover costs consistent with the national contingency plan
is similar to that found in CERCLA. 33 U.S.C. sec. 1321. See also
Section 9.8: Liability and Enforcement.
Other Specific Cleanup Authorities.
A specific spill cleanup policy, in addition to being covered by
CERCLA, covers spills of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). 40 C.F.R. pt.
761. Owners and operators of certain underground storage tanks (USTs)
must also notify government officials of the tanks' existence. They must
also: institute a release detection program; report releases over
certain sizes; investigate releases; submit a site characterization
report; and in some cases, take corrective action. 40 C.F.R. pt. 280. To
close a UST permanently, owners and operators must notify the
implementing agency, and empty and clean the UST and site. 40 C.F.R. pt.
280, subpt. G. Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA has broad authority to
respond to any accidental releases of hazardous air emissions that
create an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health, public
welfare or the environment. 42 U.S.C. sec. 7412.
Most states' environmental agencies have the authority to clean up
hazardous sites, or to order them cleaned up. State laws can set their
own cleanup criteria and policies. Typical state cleanup criteria will
depend on one or more of the following: specified maximum contaminant
levels, EPA-issued guidelines, water quality criteria, background levels
of pollutants, or some measurement of risk. Only a few states have
issued separate hazardous materials remediation standards.
From Summary of Enviromental Law in the United States - CEC
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