Oil Spill Equipment Purchased By Coast Guard Must Avoid Private Sector Duplication

Coordination With Private Organizations Necessary For Effective National Investment The national spill response capability t h a t the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) calls for may take a number of years to develop.

The Congress thus provided for continued use of Coast Guard equipment to assist in containing and removing privately spilled oil. To fulfill its role, the Coast Guard will expand its spill response operations and purchase and position spill response equipment at selected locations around t h e country.

At the same time, however, the Congress, in the conference report accompanying OPA, signaled its intention t h a t agency plans for acquiring and placing equipment be closely coordinated with those of private sector organizations and others to ensure an optimally effective national investment in response capabilities and avoid unnecessary and wasteful duplication.

As a method of complying with the instruction to avoid duplication, OPA directs the Coast Guard to compile and review a comprehensive inventory of all available response equipment. This information is vital to informed decision-making regarding Coast Guard equipment purchases and placement.

Coast Guard headquarter officials said that the agency's collective knowledge of what exists in the way of spill response equipment and where it is located was informally factored into the Coast Guard's plans for purchasing and positioning equipment.

The Coast Guard plans to acquire and position response equipment are at an advanced stage of development. Out of $21 million in multiyear funds appropriated by the Congress in fiscal year 1991 (available for fiscal years 1991-95), the agency plans to spend, by the end of fiscal year 1992, approximately $7 million to establish a third strike team and approximately $14 million to purchase and position standardized packages of response equipment at selected locations across t h e country. The agency is also planning to spend $7 million it has requested for fiscal year 1992 to replace equipment for removing spilled oil from the water. The Coast Guard expects to receive bids for new equipment in the near future and to begin taking delivery in J a n u a r y 1992.

Industry's plans to acquire equipment are also well advanced. The Marine Spill Recovery Corporation (MSRC) plans to spend approximately $900 million by February 1993 (when it expects to be fully operational) to acquire state-of-the-art response equipment, facilities, and trained personnel. As a result of this investment, MSRC is expected to have by f a r t h e largest response capability in the nation (see Fig. 1), many times t h e Coast Guard's relatively modest capability (existing as well as planned). Several prominent regional response cooperatives are also undertaking or planning major new investments totaling $78 million to increase their equipment inventories.

The Oil Pollution Act places on industry, for the first time, clear responsibility for developing the capability to contain and remove oil spills it creates. For t h e first time, also, OPA gives the Coast Guard t h e authority and means to ensure t h a t industry takes the steps necessary to fulfill its obligations.

Implicit in OPA's assignment of responsibilities is the notion t h a t once industry has put in place the response capabilities mandated — evaluated and certified as adequate by the Coast Guard—there will be a reduced need for t h e agency to maintain and operate equipment of its own to contain and remove private sector spills.

Other stories from November 1991 issue


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