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Dispersant Decision Agreements


Alternate Response Technologies | Regional Response Teams I & II | Spill Information Pamphlets

Dispersant Decision Agreements in the First Coast Guard DistrictMap of dispersant agreement areas

Physical removal of all spilled oil from the environment, while a preferred option, is often not possible because of the dynamic nature of the environment in which the oil is spilled. Dispersants are chemicals designed to break an oil slick into very small particles, which then disperse within about the top ten meters of the water column where they may be broken down by natural processes. Additional general information and additional references on dispersants have been assembled by the Regional Response Teams I and II (RRT I and II).

 Dispersant Planning Mandate

Because of the potential benefits that dispersants offer and the need for prompt decisions, the Clean Water Act (as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990) and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) specifically require that Regional and Area Contingency Plans include applicable pre-authorization plans for the use of dispersants and address the specific contexts in which such products should and should not be used (see 40 CFR 300.910). In the absence of agreements or in zones not covered by agreements, the decision to use dispersants and other chemical or biological spill control agents follows the NCP, Subpart J (see 40 CFR 300.910). This specifies that the decision rests with the Federal On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) with the concurrence of RRT members of EPA and affected states, and in consultation with natural resource trustees from the Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For more information on these roles, see information on spill response roles assembled by Regional Response Teams I and II.

Summary of Agreements in the First District (RRTs I and II)

Because of planning mandates and potential benefits of rapid decisions, several agreements have been drawn at the Area and/or Regional planning levels to allow for swift decisions on dispersant use in specified zones. The following summary table and following generalized protocols capture the key concepts of each agreement. You should always refer to the original agreements for specifics on the protocols and zones.

Agreement Area and Date Approved

Pre-Authorization Zone

Expedited Decision Zone

Trial Application Zone

Special Consideration Areas and agency to be involved



> 1/2 nm:
Federal OSC and State OSC(s) decision


  1. Isles of Shoals, NH (NH F&G)
  2. 1/2 nm to 2nm (DOI 1 hour consultation)
  3. 1/2 nm to 2nm from DOI owned or managed islands between 1/1-3/1 and 5/1-8/1 (DOI concurrence)
  4. Jeffrey's Ledge between 4/1-9/30 (NMFS)


> 2nm and
> 40 feet deep



  1. Jeffrey's Ledge between 5/1-9/30 (NMFS)
  2. Stellwagen Bank between 5/1-11/15 (SBNMS Sanctuary Manager)
  3. Great South Channel between 5/1-6/30 and 10/1-11/15 (NMFS)
  4. Cape Cod Bay between 2/1-5/15

Long Island Sound
(in process)



> 3 nm


1/2-3 nm and in specific NY Harbor areas: OSC decision for up to 110 gallon dispersant trial application


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Updated:  01/10/2007