The Resource Damage Assessment (RDA) Committee meets the second Wednesday of each month to conduct pre-assessment screenings for oil spills into state waters. Meetings are open to the public.
The RDA Committee is made up of the following state agencies:
Other federal, state, and local agencies, and tribes may also be asked to join the RDA Committee on a spill-by-spill basis, if their resources have been impacted by an oil spill.
Following an oil spill, the responsible party is issued a letter inviting them to participate in a pre-assessment screening process where the state Resource Damage Assessment (RDA) Committee reviews the facts of the spill and determines the appropriate method for assessing damages. Using the pre-assessment screening process, the RDA Committee determines whether to conduct detailed resource damage assessment studies, or if the compensation schedule should be used to assess damages for oil spills into state waters.
The compensation schedule is used if the RDA Committee determines that:
- Restoration of injured resources is not technically feasible.
- Damages are not quantifiable at a reasonable cost.
- The responsible party has not proposed a restoration project that sufficiently provides adequate compensation.
The compensation schedule is a simplified process used to calculate damages based on the:
- Habitat and organisms potentially impacted by the spill.
- Type of oil spilled.
- Volume of oil spilled.
The overall objective of this process is to restore natural resources to a pre-spill condition.
Creation of the compensation schedule resulted from concerns with how oil spill injury assessments were being conducted prior to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990:
- 1980s — a trend was becoming apparent that the amount of money being used to assess the injury caused by oil spills exceeded that of the damages calculated
- 1987 — seeing this as a problem, the Washington Legislature commissioned a study by the University of Washington that recommended developing a scientifically informed formula approach that would be cost-effective and provide accurate damage assessments
- 1989 — the Legislature implemented the study’s recommended methodology
- 1993 — we adopted the Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment rule
The compensation schedule provides a method for damages to be calculated based on a dollar-per-gallon charge. For spills less than 1,000 gallons, the range is $1 to $100 per gallon spilled. For spills of 1,000 gallons or more, this range is $3 to $300 per gallon spilled. The responsible party may be able to reduce the damages by acting quickly to contain and recover the spilled oil from the water.
During the pre-assessment screening, the RDA Committee may determine that methods alternative to the compensation schedule should be used to assess resource injuries. These methods could include, but are not limited to:
- Habitat or resource equivalency analyses.
- Contingent valuation methods.
- Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing violations.
For large oil spills that cause great resource injuries, federal trustee agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will conduct NRDA under the authority of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. For these types of oil spills a Trustee Council, similar to the RDA Committee, will be created with us representing the state.