The Department of the Interior's (DOI) Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) Program is an integrated, department-wide program. Its mission is to restore natural resources held in trust for the public injured as a result of oil spills or hazardous substance releases into the environment.
When an oil spill or hazardous substance release occurs in Indian Country, the Branch of Environmental Services may assist in conducting a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). During the assessment, environmental response and restoration specialists collect, compile and analyze data to determine the impacts of the spill or release.
Through the authorities listed in CERCLA, the Oil Pollution Act and the Clean Water Act, the information gathered during NRDA can be used to pursue a natural resource damage assessment claim against the potentially responsible parties with the ultimate goal of restoring the damaged resources to their state before the damage occurred. If natural resources are not restored, then compensation for the injury will be sought from the potentially responsible parties.
Branch of Environmental Services Authority and Responsibility under NRDAR
During the NRDAR process, federally recognized Tribes are considered trustees for natural resources belonging to, managed by, controlled by, or relating to them. This includes natural resources related to Tribal subsistence, cultural uses and spiritual values and uses that are preserved by treaties.
When an oil spill or hazardous substance release occurs on Tribal land, BES can consult, coordinate, cooperate with and provide assistance to Tribal governments to conduct natural resource damage assessments and access environmental restoration services.
For some examples of NRDAR efforts in which Tribal governments are members of a trustee council, visit the NRDAR Case Document Library and enter the term ‘Tribe’ into the search bar.
In addition, the Branch of Environmental Services provides oversight, coordination and guidance to BIA regional case managers on NRDA cases located around the country. The Branch ensures Tribes involved in NRDAR cases receive necessary funds from the Department of the Interior to support Tribal claim development. In addition, the Branch participates in the Department’s Office of Restoration and Damage Assessment (ORDA) Technical Working Group (TWG) and reviews all funding requests.
How to report an oil spill or hazardous substance release
If there has been an oil spill, hazardous substance release or other environmental contamination on your trust or restricted land, email Sherry Kircher at Sherry.Kircher@bia.gov or contact your local BIA agency.
In 2013, the federal government, the State of New York and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe announced a $19.4 million settlement with Alcoa, Incorporated and Reynolds Metals Company for injuries to natural resources, recreational fishing, and Mohawk culture resulting from the release of hazardous substances into the St. Lawrence River environment since at least the late 1950s.
- Department of the Interior’s NRDA Restoration Program
- 59 IAM 4: Indian Affairs Manual for Hazardous Substances Investigation, Remedia…
- EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribe…
- EPA Natural Resource Damages: A Primer
- EPA Summary of CERCLA (Superfund)
- EPA Summary of the Oil Pollution Act
- EPA Summary of the Clean Water Act
- NOAA Office of Response and Restoration
- US Coast Guard National Pollution Funds Center
- Draft of the DOI Departmental Manual Chapter on Indigenous Knowledge
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