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Response to Oil Spills

Despite the nation's best efforts to prevent spills, almost 14,000 oil spills are reported each year, mobilizing thousands of specially trained emergency response personnel and challenging the best-laid contingency plans. Although many spills are contained and cleaned up by the party responsible for the spill, some spills require assistance from local and state agencies, and occasionally, the federal government. Under the National Contingency Plan, EPA is the lead federal response agency for oil spills occurring in inland waters, and the U.S. Coast Guard is the lead response agency for spills in coastal waters and deepwater ports.

Whether or not it manages the response, EPA tracks all reports of oil spills. EPA usually learns about a spill from the responsible party, who is required by law to report the spill to the federal government, or from state and local responders. Once the federal government receives the report, either through the National Response Center, EPA, or another agency, it is recorded in the Emergency Response Notification System, or ERNS. ERNS contains historical spill information for the entire country dating from 1986, and is currently available for downloading.

For more information on oil spill response:

Nationally Significant Incidents
Response Techniques
Rescuing Wildlife
Selection Guide for Oil Spill Applied Technologies at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

To learn more about oil spills, please visit threats from oil spills.

Contact the Emergency Response webmaster to ask a question, provide feedback, or report a problem.

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