Assessment of Oil Spill Response Planning and Performance
Funding:  Coastal Research Response Center
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Project Summary

The primary goal of this project was to develop a framework to guide the selection of metrics for assessing spill responses, prior to a spill response during response planning, by a broad range of potentially affected and interested parties. Our concern was with the process by which those who have a stake in spill response can collectively discuss: (a) the objectives that should guide spill response and (b) the criteria or metrics that should be used to assess performance with respect to the objectives.

Read more about the theoretical background of this project.

To achieve this over-arching project goal we organized the project around a series of literature review and empirical research activities to achieve four objectives. As part of each objective we have prepared reports, book chapters, and articles. The objectives were to:

  • Characterize the objectives that stakeholders desire to achieve by oil spill response and upon which performance assessments should be based.
  • Characterize the features of good performance metrics.
  • Identify the kinds of performance metrics that have been proposed to assess oil spill response performance and the challenges of applying them in assessments of particular spill responses.
  • Develop a framework by which performance metrics may be compared and selected.

We learned that there are a small number of perspectives that explain different ways that stakeholders express their objectives for spill response - and that there are some important differences among them. People that have experience with oil spills and responses in a particular region can agree about the relative importance of some objectives and disagree about the relative importance of other, even while they can all agree with higher order goals as expressed in policy and statute. We investigated spill response objectives in five regions: Chalk Point, Buzzards Bay, San Francisco Bay, Delaware Bay and Washington state.

In a follow-up to the project we assisted the Emergency Response Division of NOAA on an effort to assess the impacts of ecological risk assessments in spill response planning and implementation. We assisted staff in the Emergency Response Division in three ways.

  1. First, we identified criteria for 'success' for collaborative planning reported in the research literature that can be used to inform the evaluation of the ecological risk assessments
  2. Second, are characterized the ways that participants think about their experiences in ecological risk assessments in Delaware Bay and Washington state.
  3. Third, we used this information to assist staff to develop evaluation instruments (i.e., surveys and interview guides) for use in their larger assessment of the ecological risk assessments.


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