TPWD's Environmental Assessment, Response, and Restoration (EARR) Program

The EARR Program investigates issues associated with environmental contaminants, responds to pollution complaints and reports of fish kills. In partnership with other State and Federal agencies, industry, and citizens it acts to protect and restore Texas natural resources threatened or injured by oil spills and releases of hazardous substances. The program is tasked with four key responsibilities:

  1. Respond to fish and wildlife kills and pollution incidents.
  2. Restore natural resources that were injured or lost due to oil spills or hazardous substance releases.
  3. Review ecological assessments as part of the waste site cleanup process.

Organization

The EARR Program provides two different functions and is supported by the TPWD Legal Division.

Natural Resource Trustee Representatives

TPWD was designated by the Governor of Texas as a natural resource "Trustee" in 1990. TPWD's natural resource trusteeship follows its resource protection responsibility as the state's primary fish and wildlife agency under Chapter 12 of the Parks and Wildlife Code. The natural resource trustees are the designated federal, state and tribal agencies who are responsible for the natural resources impacted by an oil spill or hazardous substance release. After an oil spill or hazardous substance release, response agencies clean up the substance and eliminate or reduce risks to human health and the environment. But these efforts may not fully restore injured natural resources or address their lost uses by the public. The Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) is a legal process under State and Federal laws to determine the type and amount of restoration needed to compensate the public for harm to natural resources and their human uses that occur as a result of an unauthorized release of hazardous substances or oil.

The Oil Pollution Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation, and Liability Act (CERLCA) protect the environmental from oil spills and hazardous substance releases. Both laws require responsible parties to clean up the environment (which is overseen by the lead cleanup agency) and address injury to natural resources (which is overseen by natural resource trustees). Natural resource trustees also protect resources by providing input during the cleanup response to minimize damage to resources.

Trustee Representatives provide expertise within TPWD to assess and restore natural resources injured by releases of oil and hazardous substances. TPWD encourages responsible parties to participate in cooperative damage assessment and restoration planning activities. This offers industry a practical and cost-effective way to resolve liability. For 20 years, TPWD has worked cooperatively with cleanup agencies, responsible parties, and state and federal co-trustees to recover more than $44 million from responsible parties for more than 5,000 acres of aquatic and terrestrial habitat restoration and projects designed to enhance recreational use.

Trustee Representatives at TPWD also participate in the Ecological Risk Assessment process under the TCEQ Texas Risk Reduction Program for the cleanup of waste sites to ensure that cleanup goals are protective of fish and wildlife resources.

Trustee Representative Offices:

Email
Austin (512) 389-8165 (512) 389-8160 fax
Dickinson (281) 534-0137 (281) 534-0122 fax

Kills and Spills Team (KAST)

KAST key responsibilities include:

The EARR Program manages inland KAST biologists and assists with the statewide coordination of KAST activities. KAST has offices in Austin, Waco, Tyler, Dickinson, Corpus Christi, and Brownsville.

Legal Division

The Legal Division provides legal advice and assistance to department staff and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission regarding matters within the department's authority, such as water quality, water rights, fish and wildlife law, criminal law, employment law, contract law, administrative law, open government law, natural resource damage assessment, and civil restitution.


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