Natural Resource Damages Assessment Process

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment process (NRDA) provides a scientific and economic basis for Colorado to establish a claim and seek compensation from a responsible party that has injured natural resources that belong to the State. The goal of using the NRDA process is to make the public whole by restoring natural resources injured by an oil spill or release of hazardous substances.

Within the NRDA process, the State will:

  • Verify a suspected oil spill or release of a hazardous substance;
  • Identify the responsible party(s);
  • Establish injuries to natural resources and any accompanying service losses;
    • A natural resource is injured when there is a measurable or observable adverse change (or impairment), either short- or long-term, in the quality, viability, or value of the natural resource and the service(s) it provides. The State ascertains and quantifies injuries by sampling the environmental media, such as groundwater, surface water, soils, or biota, and collecting other pertinent data, and collecting data to assess a loss in services provided by the resource.
  • Establish that the oil spill or release of hazardous substances is the cause of the injuries;
  • Quantify the lost ecosystem functions and services;
    • Ecosystem functions are the physical, chemical and biological processes or attributes that contribute to the self-maintenance of an ecosystem such as wildlife habitat, carbon cycling, or the trapping of nutrients
    • Ecosystem services are the beneficial outcomes for the natural environment and people that result from ecosystem functions such as harvesting of plants or animals, scenic views, or cultural practices or uses
  • Develop a restoration plan that proposes actions to restore, rehabilitate, replace or acquire the equivalent of injured natural resources.

With the gathered information, the State can seek payment or services from the responsible party to complete the actions needed to restore, rehabilitate, replace or acquire the equivalent of injured natural resources. If the responsible party and the State cannot agree to terms that allow for restoration, the State will typically pursue legal action, such as a lawsuit in court.

If the State receives money for a resolved claim, the funds are placed in the Natural Resource Damages Recovery Fund. Money in this fund must be used on projects to restore, rehabilitate, replace or acquire the equivalent of the injured natural resources.

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