Since 1998, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and various partners in industry and government have applied a standardized consensus ecological risk assessment process in workshops around the US to evaluate oil spill response options. Each series of workshops focuses on the evaluation of a location-specific near shore spill scenario. Participants then use the results to identify more general regional conclusions. Workshop goals are to 1) encourage local response community consensus risk-based evaluation of oil spill impacts and 2) facilitate the resolution of conflicts related to potential ecological costs and benefits of various response options, including natural recovery, which was always analyzed in order to establish a baseline. For each workshop series, a summary report is prepared to capture analytical results and participant interpretations. Sessions have been completed in six coastal areas of the United States (US), on the upper Mississippi River, the US Virgin Islands, and a bay in New Zealand. The data from all of these workshops have been analyzed to identify consistent “lessons learned” about the process and the relative risks associated with various response options. The mix of response options varied, depending upon local conditions. All eight coastal assessments examined on-water mechanical recovery and the use of dispersants, and several looked at in-situ burning (on-shore or on-water) as well as shoreline cleanup. The freshwater workshop emphasized use of the methodology to define the relative risk to various habitats, rather than to evaluate specific response options. In all nine workshops the participants reported that the methodology helped them to more effectively structure their discussions about potential costs and benefits. In general, participants felt that dispersants (and in some cases in-situ burning) should receive more consideration than they do currently, that on-water mechanical recovery alone was unlikely to meet their response objectives, and that the risk assessment process improved their ability to analyze oil spill response issues. In each case, participants also identified specific activities which they felt were appropriate to integrate the results into local response planning efforts.

This content is only available as a PDF.