As millions of gallons of oil are transported and stored across the United States every day, we are faced with the possibility of an accidental spill that can devastate wildlife, endanger our water, and impact our economy.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC), committed to protecting America’s environment, provides protection up-front by certifying that oil-carrying vessels have the financial ability to pay in the case of an oil spill. When spills do occur, the NPFC provides funding for quick response, compensates claimants for cleanup costs and damages, and takes action to recover costs from responsible parties.

Oil Pollution Act (OPA)

In 1990, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) to help address a wide range of issues associated with preventing, responding to, and paying for oil pollution. Title 1 of OPA established oil spill liability and compensation requirements, including the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) to help facilitate cleanup activities and compensate for damages from oil spills. In 1991, the United States Coast Guard created the National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC) to implement Title 1 of OPA, administer the OSLTF, and ensure effective response and recovery.
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Responsibilities Under Other Statutes

The NPFC is also responsible for administering the Coast Guard portion of Superfund, which funds the clean-up of hazardous substances and was created by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). Read More...

The Stafford Act provides federal assistance to state and local governments impacted by a significant disaster or emergency, such as hurricanes or terrorist acts. The NPFC administers pollution-related disaster funds under the Stafford Act and the National Response Framework. Read More...

See our Mission and Vision for an overview of all we do.
See NPFC Laws and Regulations for more of our legal authorities.

Issuing COFRS

One of the most challenging concerns in overseeing oil transportation in navigable waters is ensuring that responsible parties can be held accountable for cleanup costs and damages when there is an oil spill or threat of a spill. The NPFC tackles this challenge by issuing Certificates of Financial Responsibility (COFRs). COFRs are granted when a shipping vessel owner has demonstrated the ability to pay for oil spill cleanup and damages. In general, vessels weighing more than 300 gross tons must have a valid COFR to operate in U.S. waters. Read More...

Funding Spill Response

When an oil or hazardous substance spill occurs, the NPFC provides the financial resources for a quick, effective response. NPFC funding is available 24 hours a day for federal responders to oversee the polluter’s cleanup activities or, if necessary, mitigate the threat itself. This funding permits a rapid pre-assessment of natural resources damaged by the spill, as well as spill containment, cleanup, and disposal. Read More...

Adjudicating Claims

If the party responsible for an oil spill does not pay or is not known, claimants may ask the NPFC for reimbursement from the OSLTF. They may submit claims to the NPFC for payment of the following:

  • Uncompensated removal costs
  • Natural resource damages (Natural Resource Trustees only)
  • Damages to real or personal property
  • Loss of subsistence use of natural resources
  • Loss of profit and earning capacity
  • Net loss of government revenue by federal, state, or political subdivisions
  • Net cost for increased public services by a state or its political subdivisions


Recovering Costs

NPFC takes action to recover cleanup costs from the responsible party. To begin the cost recovery process, the NPFC first identifies the polluter and ensures that all costs and damages from a spill area are accurately documented. The NPFC then bills the responsible party for payment of cleanup costs and damages. Timely and efficient cost recovery not only ensures that the polluter is held accountable, but also encourages potential polluters to act more carefully in the future.