Exponent is a national leader on providing clients with strategic support on Natural Resource Damage (NRD) claims. These claims are a corporate environmental liability beyond cleanup or response actions. Damage claims can be very large, and settlement or litigation costs correspondingly high. Although potential liability is great, our scientists and engineers help clients minimize costs associated with claims for damages to natural resources, while still protecting the environment. With expertise in ecology, fisheries, toxicology, chemistry, chemical forensics, geology, hydrology, and environmental engineering, our staff provides a range of services that includes:
- Reviewing trustee data to determine technical and regulatory credibility of the case
- Independently assessing injuries, and estimating damages and restoration costs
- Developing technical strategies in support of NRD claim defense
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) and Oil Pollution Act (OPA) consulting, and emerging legislation such as under the European Union Environmental Liability Directive
- Monitoring trustee sampling and analysis efforts
- Restoration scaling and identifying cost-effective restoration options
- Developing powerful and credible technical negotiating positions
- Independently collecting focused data
- Coordinating economics with science in complex cases
- Providing litigation support
These and other activities have enabled us to successfully support clients at a wide range of sites involving claims for damages to natural resources. NRD assessment (NRDA) is a core, signature business area of Exponent. Members of our staff have been involved in some of the largest NRDA cases in the country, as well as many smaller cases. The work has ranged from projects involving focused issues with rapid settlement to those with difficult technical problems and ongoing legal and regulatory negotiations. In some cases, industry elects to work with the natural resource trustees in a cooperative assessment process, to control transaction costs. Exponent has played a key role on our clients’ behalf in cooperative damage assessments to achieve timely and cost-effective solutions. Exponent has spearheaded this approach at several NRD sites, leading industry’s technical efforts and supporting the regulatory interface. Exponent has developed the use of several analytical tools to help reach settlements.
Use of Habitat Equivalency Analysis
One effective tool for responding to natural resource damage claims is habitat equivalency analysis (HEA). HEA is a method originally developed by trustees for estimating compensation for natural resource service losses and calculating the scale of compensatory restoration required to offset those losses. The principle behind HEA is that damage compensation can be achieved through habitat “replacement.” The HEA approach can provide the foundation for successful closure of natural resource damage issues by:
- Clearly defining negotiating limits
- Allowing negotiations to start with cost-effective restoration options
- Avoiding monetization of damages and focusing on habitat restoration
Exponent is a specialty service provider, offering cogent science, negotiation, and restoration planning services. We are not a provider of “hard” engineering (design/build) services, and thus has no vested business interest in the conduct of any particular restoration measures, such as dredging or treatment of contaminated sediments. This allows us to act as an “honest broker” and make decisions and recommendations based solely on the client’s best interest.
Use of Environmental Forensics
NRD cases involving releases into urban estuaries or complex industrial settings often depend on a strong scientific approach to reconstructing the release, assessing injury, establishing causation, and defining the baseline. Exponent excels in this arena, and clients rely on our team's combined experience in biological injury assessment, along with knowledge of transport pathways and chemical forensics, to assess injury and allocate the costs of reparation to various sources.