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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. pt. 300.
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. 9609(a)(2).
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 Wastes.
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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