Only state, federal, and tribal Trustees may assess and seek to recover damages, on behalf of the public, from responsible parties for injury to natural resources and loss of services. Recovered damages are used to restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent of the injured natural resources.
The President, the Governors of each state, and Native American tribes each designate officials who may act on behalf of the public as trustees for natural resources.
Trustees and their representatives include:
- Massachusetts State Trustee:
- Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
- Federal Trustees:
- Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. National Park Service, and others
- Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
- Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Defense, Energy, and Agriculture
Federal and State Environmental Statutes
Trustees rely on several authorities to bring an action or claim against a responsible party for damages for injury to natural resources, including the following:
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
The principal statute governing the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances. The statute establishes:
- Liability for site cleanup
- Prescribes a procedure for identifying and ranking contaminated sites
- Provides funding for site cleanups
- Reduces uncontrolled releases of hazardous substances
- Establishes cleanup procedures that provide protection for humans and the environment, and
- Restores injured natural resources through provisions administered by the natural resource trustees.
- Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA)
The principal statute governing oil spills into the nation's waterways. OPA was passed in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in March of 1989. The statute establishes:
- Liability and limitations on liability for damages resulting from oil pollution, and
- Establishes a fund for the payment of compensation for such damages.
- Federal Clean Water Act
- Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Materials Release Prevention & Response Act (M.G.L. c. 21E)
Information and Resources:
- Massachusetts Laws, Regulations and Authorizing Statutes
- Federal Laws, Regulations, and Authorizing Statutes
- Federal Trustees and Resources
- Other State Programs
- Other Selected State NRD Programs