What is a natural resource damage assessment and restoration (NRDAR)?
In circumstances where releases of hazardous substances or oil are suspected to have resulted in natural resource injuries, natural resource trustees can conduct a Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) process. The purpose of NRDAR is to determine if there are resource injuries and to determine whether the restoration of these injured natural resources is warranted. The ultimate goal is to restore natural resources to the condition they would be in but for the release of the hazardous contaminants or oil. DOI regulations at 43 CFR 11 provide a framework for the NRDAR process.

What are natural resource damages?
Natural resource damages are the compensation for injuries resulting from the release of oil or hazardous substances. Damages may include the cost of restoring the injured resources to their baseline condition (i.e., the condition that would have existed but for the release) as well as damages associated with interim losses pending restoration. Damages also include the cost of assessment, plus any compensation for injuries occurring from response actions.

What is a natural resource injury?
A natural resource injury is an observable or measurable adverse change in a natural resource, including destruction or loss of the natural resource, and/or the services it provides.

Who are the trustees?
Natural Resource Trustees are government officials who act on behalf of the public when there is injury to, destruction of, loss of, or threat to natural resources as a result of a release of a hazardous substance or a discharge of oil. Trustees can include federal, state and Tribal entities and are authorized by Section 301(c) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

What are the phases of a NRDAR?

  1. Pre-Assessment Screen: Used to determine if additional action is warranted. The LANL Pre-Assessment Screen was completed in January, 2010 and it determined that an assessment of resource injuries was warranted.
  2. Damage Assessment Plan: A natural resource damage assessment plan identifies the approach to be used for conducting assessment activities. Trustees write a damage assessment plan to ensure that the assessment is performed in a planned and systematic manner and that the methodologies selected can be conducted at a reasonable cost. In April 2014, the Trustee Council released the Final LANL Natural Resource Damage Assessment Plan.
  3. Damage Assessment Implementation: In this phase the Trustees gather data and information and quantify damages to complete the assessment of natural resource injuries.
  4. Post Assessment: Once the scale of damages has been determined, identify and scale the appropriate type and quantity of restoration required. As part of this process, the Trustees will draft a Restoration and Compensation Determination Plan (RCDP). The public will have the opportunity to comment on and provide input to the RCDP.

Where is the LANL NRDAR process right now?
The Trustee Council is currently implementing the Final LANL Damage Assessment Plan which was released on April 30, 2014.

What is LANL?
LANL is the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It’s located in north-central New Mexico, approximately 60 miles north of Albuquerque and 25 miles northwest of Santa Fe. It is situated on approximately 27,500 acres (approximately 40 square miles).

How are natural resource damages (NRD) different from remediation?
Natural resource damage claims compensate the public for past, present, and future injuries to natural resources. Only designated natural resource trustees may bring NRD claims on behalf of the public. The damage compensation must be used to restore, rehabilitate, replace, or acquire the equivalent of the injured resources. Remediation and/or response activities, usually overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or state environmental agencies, are intended to reduce present and future risks to public health and the environment.

How are NRDAR damages calculated?
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior NRDA regulations at 43 CFR Part 11, any restoration activities must take into consideration the results of any completed or planned remedial activities. Specifically, “Damages [are] calculated based on injuries occurring from the onset of the release through the recovery period, less any mitigation of those injuries by response actions taken or anticipated, plus any increase in injuries that are reasonably unavoidable as a result of response actions taken or anticipated” (43 CFR 11.15(a)(1)).

When can the public get involved?
There are two key opportunities for the public to participate in the NRDAR process: during the damage assessment planning phase and the restoration planning phase. Both the Damage Assessment Plan and the Restoration Compensation Determination Plan will be presented to the public for comment.

What is a cooperative assessment?
Performing a NRDAR is the responsibility of the natural resource trustee(s). In some cases, potentially responsible parties (PRPs) will participate in the NRDAR process. Such assessments are referred to as cooperative assessments. Performing NRDAR cooperatively can reduce the likelihood that damages will be pursued through litigation, can result in cost savings, and increases the likelihood that a settlement to pay for damages can be reached between the Trustees and the PRPs.

What is a Potentially Responsible Party (PRP)?
In the context of NRDAR, a PRP is an individual or entity being held responsible for the release of hazardous substances or oil.

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