Traditionally, spill response effectiveness has been measured by cost per volume of oil spilled. However, this measurement is misleading and arbitrary. Measuring the cost of response per gallon (or barrel) spilled does not adequately account for the value of environmental and economic injuries that were minimized or prevented through appropriate response actions. The authors discuss the principles underlying an evaluation of spill response benefit and present the results of their work in progress to compare the economic and environmental benefits gained by minimizing injuries through response against the cost of conducting that response. This process, which we call response benefit analysis (RBA), uses a quantitative and/or qualitative evaluation of resources protected and rehabilitated as a result of spill response actions. As a pilot study, the authors examined the South Traffic Lane Spill (T/V Command) off the San Francisco peninsula in September 1998. This spill involved an approximate 6,000 gallons of oil, discharged 12 miles offshore, with response costs of $1.03 million. The analysis concluded that significant environmental and economic benefits were realized by conducting a proactive response that would not normally be considered by reporting cost per barrel spilled alone. This methodology presents a conceptual framework and needs to be further developed and tested to enable the spill response community to conduct response benefit analysis locally.

The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, or the California Department of Fish and Game.

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