Thanks, Oil Pollution Act: 30 Years of Enabling Environmental Restoration After Oil Spills

Posted Wed, 08/12/2020 - 13:47

Imagine yourself preparing for your next trip to the beach. The sun is shining and you drive with excitement to your favorite spot on the coast. But when you arrive, instead of being welcomed by clean sand and blue ocean waves, you see a thick black sludge washing over both beach and birds. What happened?

Oyster Reefs Breathe New Life into Virginia’s Elizabeth River

Posted Wed, 08/12/2020 - 13:08
By Megan Ewald and Simeon Hahn, Office of Response and Restoration Assessment and Restoration Division

If you ever wondered how oyster reefs are built, it involves a team of dedicated experts and a water cannon. Over the last month, barges have blasted 100,000 bushels of small fossilized oyster shells, called oyster hash, into the Eastern Branch of Virginia’s Elizabeth River. Oyster hash is normally shipped abroad for use as chicken feed, but now it’s laying the foundation for a restoration project that will help the river recover from pollution.

Argo Merchant: What if It Happened Today?

Posted Tue, 08/11/2020 - 10:41

Whenever oil is transported there is a risk of accidents and spills, but the 40 years since the Argo Merchant oil spill have seen improvements in laws, shipping technology and spill response.

Tankers today are much safer, but they are also much larger. The Argo Merchant was carrying about 8 million gallons of oil, while modern tankers can carry 10 times that amount. A large spill is a rare event, but the impacts are still potentially catastrophic.

Who Pays for Oil Spills?

Posted Fri, 08/07/2020 - 08:00

After every major oil spill, one question comes up again and again: Who is going to pay for this mess? While the American public and the environment pay the ultimate price (metaphorically speaking), the polluter most often foots the bill for cleanup, response, and restoration after oil spills. In sum: You break it, you buy it.

The True Cost of an Oil Spill: Q&A with a NOAA Economist

Posted Thu, 08/06/2020 - 04:12

Before the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 that followed shortly after, the Deepwater Port Act of 1974 (DWPA) provided guidance for deepwater port structures used for the import and export of oil and natural gas, including conditions to minimize adverse environmental impacts.

This new law resulted in NOAA’s Deepwater Ports Project Office — an early predecessor to NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration and the start of OR&R Senior Economist Norman Meade’s 43 year career with NOAA.

An Oil Spill’s Silver Lining, Over Three Decades After Exxon Valdez

Posted Tue, 08/04/2020 - 04:58
By Megan Ewald, Office of Response and Restoration

When an oil spill happens, whoever is responsible pays for the cleanup and restoration.

But this has not always been the case. Thirty years ago, on March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh Reef, rupturing its hull and spilling almost 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

It was an unprecedented disaster, and at the time there was no comprehensive federal legislation to determine the scope of liability for costs of cleanup and restoration.