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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Environmental Activities of the U.S. Coast Guard

Jonathan L. Ramseur
Specialist in Environmental Policy

The U.S. Coast Guard’s environmental activities focus on prevention programs, accompanied by enforcement and educational activities.

A key component of the Coast Guard’s environmental activities involves maritime oil spill prevention. As required by several environmental statutes, including the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act, the Coast Guard’s pollution preparedness and response activities aim to reduce the impact of oil and hazardous substances spills. Related to this duty, the Coast Guard inspects U.S. and foreign-flagged ships to ensure compliance with U.S. laws and international agreements. In addition, the Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC) manages the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF), which is primarily used to finance prompt responses to oil spills and to reimburse parties for applicable costs associated with oil spills (e.g., cleanup costs, natural resource damages, economic losses).

The Coast Guard’s approach to marine debris (e.g., discarded fishing lines or nets) is preventive, promoting compliance by boarding and inspecting vessels, and working with local port agencies to ensure there are facilities to receive garbage from vessels. With other agencies, the Coast Guard monitors and measures marine debris.

The Coast Guard has a history of scientific study dating back to the 1880s, but its current role is that of a facilitator, supporting the scientific efforts of other groups. The Coast Guard operates three icebreakers in the Arctic and Antarctic, and provides supplies to remote stations.

Coast Guard operations must comply with applicable environmental laws. Requirements include air emission standards and waste management.

Date of Report: August 18, 2011
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: RS22145
Price: $29.95

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