Outlook for and Experience With Natural Resource Damage Settlements

RCED-96-71: Published: Apr 16, 1996. Publicly Released: May 17, 1996.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed natural resource damage provisions of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), focusing on: (1) the prospect for future claims by the federal government against polluters for natural resources damage; (2) the amount and use of settlements that federal agencies have already collected from polluters; and (3) the guidelines used by federal agencies to determine an appropriate amount of compensation for natural resources damage.

GAO found that: (1) the Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimate that 60 sites may eventually have claims for damages to natural resources that will equal or exceed $5 million and that up to 20 of these sites may have claims exceeding $50 million; (2) of the $83.8 million owed to the federal government for the five largest natural resource damage settlements, only about 40 percent has been collected, and 11 percent of these funds has been spent; (3) the collected money has been used to reimburse trustees for completed damage assessments and to pay for natural resource restoration plans; (4) while CERCLA did not require standards or methods to determine damages, it directed Interior to develop consistent procedures that trustees should consider when assessing damages to natural resources; (5) trustees rarely use either of the procedures, since one is limited in scope and the other is costly and time-consuming; and (6) the 95 settlements reached as of April 1995 used abbreviated procedures that use readily available site-specific information and scientific literature to quantify damages.

Sep 14, 2018

Sep 5, 2018

Aug 24, 2018

Aug 16, 2018

Jul 19, 2018

Jul 17, 2018

Jul 12, 2018

Jun 19, 2018

Jun 14, 2018

Jun 7, 2018

Looking for more? Browse all our products here