Catholic University Law Review


Elizabeth Conti


Natural Resource Damage Assessments (NRDAs) are necessary for the purpose of ensuring restoration and revitalization to natural resources harmed or destroyed by environmental contaminations, whether natural or manmade. Many federal laws such as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (CWA) are available to assess damages to natural resources. However, their effectiveness is limited due to factors such as lack of resources and funding, political intervention, and a multitude of damages to assess spread throughout the country. Many states have taken the lead in enacting NRDA laws that address local concerns and provide state-specific assessments and remedies better attuned to the priorities of the state’s needs.

This Comment discusses why there should be more focus on state natural resource damage assessments aside from simply focusing on federal laws. Beginning with an overview of the major federal NRDA laws including CERCLA, the OPA, the CWA, and state NRDA laws., this Comment then explores case studies from two different states, California and Pennsylvania, and how applying both state and federal NRDA laws can paint a more descriptive picture of the differences and similarities between the state and federal laws. By comparing the NRDA laws of California and Pennsylvania, noting the successes and failures of each approach, this Comment concludes by proposing that the existing federal laws governing NRDA are not a one size fits all approach, and instead it encourages states to take the initiative in creating and strengthening their own NRDA laws for better environmental restoration.