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CERCLA & Coast Guard Superfund Use

CERCLA Overview

Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund and codified as 42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq., on December 11, 1980. CERCLA was amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) on October 17, 1986.

CERCLA gave the Federal government the authority and the funding (i.e., Superfund) to clean up sites contaminated by hazardous waste. The EPA administers Superfund and provides an overview of CERCLA.

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History of Superfund

CERCLA established the Superfund to provide monies to identify, prioritize, and clean up the nation's uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. The Superfund, administered by EPA, was created as an important CERCLA component to give the Federal Government flexibility in identifying and addressing potentially harmful releases of hazardous substances. The Superfund provides the funds that enable federal agencies to respond immediately to hazardous substance releases and contamination problems that pose a threat to public health and the environment. EPA recovers removal costs are recovered from the responsible parties (RPs).

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Coast Guard CERCLA Responses

Since August 1981, Coast Guard FOSCs have responded to releases and substantial threats of releases of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants (HAZMAT) in the coastal zone, the Great Lakes, and inland river ports as designated in the National Contingency Plan (NCP).  The Coast Guard National Strike Force (NSF) provides highly trained responders to support these responses.  The NCP designates the Strike Force as a national resource available to all of the Federal On-Scene Coordinators (FOSCs) conducting removal operations throughout the United States, its territories, and possessions.

Since its establishment, NPFC has served as the fiduciary agent for the portion of the Superfund used by the Coast Guard.  EPA provides the funds to the Coast Guard through Interagency Agreements (IAGs), and the funds are used for the ongoing costs of building and maintaining response capabilities (training, equipment, personnel) and for costs incurred in removal operations following a CERCLA incident.

CERCLA response authority includes response to intentional releases of industrial or military hazardous materials by terrorists, resulting in an overlap of pollution response and homeland security.

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Types of CERCLA Funds

The Coast Guard uses two kinds of CERCLA funds.

  • Incident-Specific Funds are used to respond to hazardous substance incidents in the Coastal Zone and include costs for contractors and Strike Team operations. Guidance for use of incident-specific CERCLA funds is outlined in the National Contingency Plan.
  • Management and Support (M&S) Funds, also called non-incident funds, are used for the functions, activities, and equipment and property purchases needed to build or maintain the Coast Guard’s capability to respond to hazardous substance incidents in the Coastal Zone. These funds include training, response equipment and its maintenance, hazardous substance spill drills and exercises, National and Regional Response Team meetings and support costs, medical support, and National Response Center communications capability.

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National Strike Force (NSF)

The National Contingency Plan categorizes the Coast Guard National Strike Force as a Special Force, a national asset, available to assist any OSC in either the Coastal or Inland Zone. CERCLA M&S funds are used to build NSF capability to respond to releases of hazardous substances.

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Last Modified 1/12/2016