Washington to Update Oil Spill Damages Formula

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is seeking public comment on a draft rule that would update the mathematical formulas for calculating the dollar value of oil spill-related damages to state natural resources, according to a Jan. 6 press release.

Since 1992, the compensation range has been $1 to $50 per gallon of oil spilled. However, the 2007 Legislature raised the upper per gallon limit to $100.

“Right now, our existing mathematical formulas can’t reach above $50 per gallon,” said Ecology Spill Response Manager David Byers. “We need to adjust the state compensation schedule so it’s in compliance with the new law.”

In Washington, individuals and companies responsible for spilling oil to marine waters, rivers, streams, wetlands, ponds and lakes, groundwater, storm drains, ditches, and other state waters are liable for damages to natural resources.

Compensation for natural resource damage is separate from penalties for oil spills and reimbursing the state for its response and cleanup costs. Monetary damages collected through the natural resource compensation schedule are deposited into a special state account that is primarily used to fund habitat restoration and enhancement activities in areas affected by oil spills.

Ecology works in partnership with the state departments of Fish and Wildlife, Health, Natural Resources, Archeology and Historical Preservation, and Washington Parks and Recreation Commission to calculate the monetary value of natural resources injured by a spill.

The public comment period for the draft rule is open until 5 p.m. on Feb. 9. Written comments and questions regarding the proposed rule should be submitted to Harry Chichester, Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, Wash., 98504-7600; submitted by e-mail at spillsrulemaking@ecy.wa.gov; or faxed to 360-407-6989.

The agency anticipates adopting final rule language in March 2009.

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