The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 has led to a dramatic increase in the number and volume of formal plans intended to mitigate the impacts of spilled oil. The U.S. Coast Guard and state regulatory offices have not developed evaluation methodologies that will ensure that contingency planners capture essential information rather than simply mass-producing documentation for bureaucratic review. This paper reports on a methodology for evaluating contingency and prevention plans based on a structured representation of the plan and assignment of relative importance weights by experts using a commercially available decision support aid. The methodology is tested using two examples: a comparison of the plans used during the Exxon Valdez response, and the development of a prevention plan evaluation tool for the State of Washington. The evaluations show that the elements of a plan are typically of very unequal importance. The elements evaluated as least important by the experts, however, are typically the easiest to provide. The evaluation methodology proposed will help focus reviewers and planners on those elements critical to pollution prevention and response.

The views in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies of those organizations or agencies discussed.

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