Oil Spill Relocation Information for Responsible Parties

New York State Navigation Law Section 172 defines "cleanup and removal costs" for petroleum spills to include certain costs associated with the relocation of residents affected by petroleum spills. The Navigation Law requires that the party responsible for the spill pay for these relocation costs. Article 12 of the New York State Navigation Law, which includes Section 172, New York State Public Health Law Section 206(1)(q) gives the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), the authority to carry out certain provisions of the Navigation Law relating to the relocation of residents.

Who determines if relocation is necessary?

NYSDOH, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), or county health department staff responding to a spill can determine that residents should temporarily move out of their homes because of the increased risk to their health from exposure to petroleum vapors resulting from a spill. This determination is made based upon free petroleum product in the home or strong petroleum odors in the living space.

How is a responsible party identified?

The NYSDEC determines the party or parties responsible for a spill based on their investigation of the incident.

What are relocation costs?

Relocation costs include all actual and necessary costs from temporary relocation of affected residents including lodging, meals and other related expenses such as kennel and laundry costs. New York State uses the federal domestic per diem rates as a maximum allowable guideline for lodging and meal expenses in various areas of the state. These per diem rates can be found at www.gsa.gov.

What if the responsible party is unable or unwilling to pay for relocation costs?

The responsible party should immediately notify their insurance company to determine if they are covered under their insurance policy. If the responsible party and/or their insurance company are unable or unwilling to pay relocation expenses, the state can use the Oil Spill Compensation Fund monies to pay the actual and necessary expenses incurred by residents who relocate. Navigation Law Section 181(1) prescribes a penalty for failure of a responsible party to undertake relocation of affected individuals in the amount of two times the actual and necessary expense incurred by the Oil Spill Fund for such relocation. Navigation Law Section 176(7)(c) also provides for reimbursement to an entity that initially is identified as a responsible party, has paid relocation costs and subsequently is found to not be responsible for the spill.

How and when is relocation ended?

Relocation ends when the NYSDOH, NYSDEC, or county health department staff inspect the home and determine that measures to cleanup the spill are adequate to reduce the exposure to residents. In some instances, a remedial system or engineering controls will need to remain active in the home after relocation is ended. When the decision to end relocation cannot be made based on visual inspection, the NYSDOH or county health department staff may determine that air sampling is needed to report the level of petroleum vapors in the residence. In these cases, the responsible party will be required to hire a laboratory to perform air sampling in the residence. If the responsible party refuses, the NYSDOH and NYSDEC will have testing done by a contract laboratory under the Oil Spill Fund. The NYSDOH will evaluate air sampling data by comparing levels of the petroleum compounds in the home to a database of background levels typically found in the indoor air of unaffected homes.

Additional Questions?

Call the NYSDOH at 518-402-7810 or 1-800-458-1158.