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2021 Florida Statutes (Including 2021B Session)
Liability for damage to natural resources.
Liability for damage to natural resources.
376.121 Liability for damage to natural resources.—The Legislature finds that extensive damage to the state’s natural resources is the likely result of a pollutant discharge and that it is essential that the state adequately assess and recover the cost of such damage from responsible parties. It is the state’s goal to recover the costs of restoration from the responsible parties and to restore damaged natural resources to their predischarge condition. In many instances, however, restoration is not technically feasible. In such instances, the state has the responsibility to its citizens to recover the cost of all damage to natural resources. To ensure that the public does not bear a substantial loss as a result of the destruction of natural resources, the procedures set out in this section shall be used to assess the cost of damage to such resources. Natural resources include coastal waters, wetlands, estuaries, tidal flats, beaches, lands adjoining the seacoasts of the state, and all living things except human beings. The Legislature recognizes the difficulty historically encountered in calculating the value of damaged natural resources. The value of certain qualities of the state’s natural resources is not readily quantifiable, yet the resources and their qualities have an intrinsic value to the residents of the state, and any damage to natural resources and their qualities should not be dismissed as nonrecoverable merely because of the difficulty in quantifying their value. In order to avoid unnecessary speculation and expenditure of limited resources to determine these values, the Legislature hereby establishes a schedule for compensation for damage to the state’s natural resources and the quality of said resources. As an alternative to the compensation schedule described in subsections (4), (5), (6), and (9), the department, when no responsible party is identified, when a responsible party opts out of the formula pursuant to paragraph (10)(a), or when the department conducts a cooperative damage assessment with federal agencies, may use methods of calculating natural resources damages in accordance with federal rules implementing the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, as amended.
(1) The department shall assess and recover from responsible parties the compensation for the injury or destruction of natural resources, including, but not limited to, the death or injury of living things and damage to or destruction of habitat, resulting from pollutant discharges prohibited by s. 376.041. The amount of compensation and any costs of assessing damage and recovering compensation received by the department shall be deposited into the Florida Coastal Protection Trust Fund pursuant to s. 376.12 and disbursed according to subsection (11). Whoever violates, or causes to be violated, s. 376.041 shall be liable to the state for damage to natural resources.
(2) The compensation schedule for damage to natural resources is based upon the cost of restoration and the loss of ecological, consumptive, intrinsic, recreational, scientific, economic, aesthetic, and educational values of such injured or destroyed resources. The compensation schedule takes into account:
(a) The volume of the discharge.
(b) The characteristics of the pollutant discharged. The toxicity, dispersibility, solubility, and persistence characteristics of a pollutant as affects the severity of the effects on the receiving environment, living things, and recreational and aesthetic resources. Pollutants have varying propensities to injure natural resources based upon their potential exposure and effects. Exposure to natural resources is determined by the dispersibility and degradability of the pollutant. Effects to natural resources result from mechanical injury and toxicity and include physical contamination, smothering, feeding prevention, immobilization, respiratory distress, direct mortality, lost recruitment of larvae and juveniles killed, changes in the food web, and chronic effects of sublethal levels of contaminates in tissues or the environment. For purposes of the compensation schedule, pollutants have been ranked for their propensity to cause injury to natural resources based upon a combination of their acute toxicity, mechanical injury, degradability, and dispersibility characteristics on a 1-to-3 relative scale with Category 1 containing the pollutants with the greatest propensity to cause injury to natural resources. The following pollutants are categorized:
1. Category 1: bunker and residual fuel.
2. Category 2: waste oils, crude oil, lubricating oil, asphalt, and tars.
3. Category 3: hydraulic fluids, numbers 1 and 2 diesel fuels, heating oil, jet aviation fuels, motor gasoline, including aviation gasoline, kerosene, stationary turbine fuels, ammonia and its derivatives, and chlorine and its derivatives.
(c) The type and sensitivity of natural resources affected by a discharge, determined by the following factors:
1. The location of a discharge. Inshore discharges are discharges that occur within waters under the jurisdiction of the department and within an area extending seaward from the coastline of the state to a point 1 statute mile seaward of the coastline. Nearshore discharges are discharges that occur more than 1 statute mile, but within 3 statute miles, seaward of the coastline. Offshore discharges are discharges that occur more than 3 statute miles seaward of the coastline.
2. The location of the discharge with respect to special management areas designated because of their unique habitats; living resources; recreational use; aesthetic importance; and other ecological, educational, consumptive, intrinsic, scientific, and economic values of the natural resources located therein. Special management areas are state parks; recreation areas; national parks, seashores, estuarine research reserves, marine sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, and national estuary program water bodies; state aquatic preserves and reserves; classified shellfish harvesting areas; areas of critical state concern; federally designated critical habitat for endangered or threatened species; and outstanding Florida waters.
3. The areal or linear extent of the natural resources impacted.
(3) Compensation for damage to natural resources for any discharge of less than 25 gallons of gasoline or diesel fuel shall be $50.
(4) Compensation schedule:
(a) The amount of compensation assessed under this schedule is calculated by: multiplying $1 per gallon or its equivalent measurement of pollutant discharged, by the number of gallons or its equivalent measurement, times the location of the discharge factor, times the special management area factor.
(b) Added to the amount obtained in paragraph (a) is the value of the observable natural resources damaged, which is calculated by multiplying the areal or linear coverage of impacted habitat by the corresponding habitat factor, times the special management area factor.
(c) The sum of paragraphs (a) and (b) is then multiplied by the pollutant category factor.
(d) The final damage assessment figure is the sum of the amount calculated in paragraph (c) plus the compensation for death of endangered or threatened species, plus the cost of conducting the damage assessment as determined by the department.
(5)(a) The factors used in calculating the damage assessment are:
1. Location of discharge factor:
a. Discharges that originate inshore have a factor of eight. Discharges that originate nearshore have a factor of five. Discharges that originate offshore have a factor of one.
b. Compensation for damage to natural resources resulting from discharges that originate outside of state waters but that traverse the state’s boundaries and therefore have an impact upon the state’s natural resources shall be calculated using a location factor of one.
c. Compensation for damage to natural resources resulting from discharges of less than 10,000 gallons of pollutants which originate within 100 yards of an established terminal facility or point of routine pollutant transfer in a designated port authority as defined in s. 315.02 shall be assessed a location factor of one.
2. Special management area factor: Discharges that originate in special management areas described in subparagraph (2)(c)2. have a factor of two. Discharges that originate outside a special management area described in subparagraph (2)(c)2. have a location factor of one. For discharges that originate outside of a special management area but impact the natural resources within a special management area, the value of the natural resources damaged within the area shall be multiplied by the special management area factor of two.
3. Pollutant category factor: Discharges of category 1 pollutants have a factor of eight. Discharges of category 2 pollutants have a factor of four. Discharges of category 3 pollutants have a factor of one.
4. Habitat factor: The amount of compensation for damage to the natural resources of the state is established as follows:
a. $10 per square foot of coral reef impacted.
b. $1 per square foot of mangrove or seagrass impacted.
c. $1 per linear foot of sandy beach impacted.
d. $0.50 per square foot of live bottom, oyster reefs, worm rock, perennial algae, saltmarsh, or freshwater tidal marsh impacted.
e. $0.05 per square foot of sand bottom or mud flats, or combination thereof, impacted.
(b) The areal and linear coverage of habitat impacted shall be determined by the department using a combination of field measurements, aerial photogrammetry, and satellite imagery. An area is impacted when the pollutant comes in contact with the habitat.
(6) It is understood that a pollutant will, by its very nature, result in damage to the flora and fauna of the waters of the state and the adjoining land. Therefore, compensation for such resources, which is difficult to calculate, is included in the compensation schedule. Not included, however, in this base figure is compensation for the death of endangered or threatened species directly attributable to the pollutant discharged. Compensation for the death of any animal designated by rule as endangered by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is $10,000. Compensation for the death of any animal designated by rule as threatened by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is $5,000. These amounts are not intended to reflect the actual value of said endangered or threatened species, but are included for the purposes of this section.
(7) The owner or operator of the vessel or facility responsible for a discharge may designate a representative or agent to work with the department in assessing the amount of damage to natural resources resulting from the discharge.
(8) When assessing the amount of damages to natural resources, the department shall be assisted, if requested by the department, by representatives of other state agencies and local governments that would enhance the department’s damage assessment. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shall assist the department in the assessment of damages to wildlife impacted by a pollutant discharge and shall assist the department in recovering the costs of such damages.
(9) Compensation for damage resulting from the discharge of two or more pollutants shall be calculated for the volume of each pollutant discharged. If the separate volume for each pollutant discharged cannot be determined, the highest multiplier for the pollutants discharged shall be applied to the entire volume of the spill. Compensation for commingled discharges that contact habitat shall be calculated on a proportional basis of discharged volumes. The highest multiplier for such commingled pollutants may only be applied if a reasonable proportionality of the commingled pollutants cannot be determined at the point of any contact with natural resources.
(10) For cases in which the department is authorized to use a method of natural resources damage assessment other than the compensation schedules described in subsections (4), (5), (6), and (9), the department may use the methods described in federal rules implementing the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, as amended.
(a) When a responsible party is identified and the department is not conducting a cooperative damage assessment with federal agencies, the person responsible has the option to pay the amount of compensation calculated pursuant to the compensation schedule established in subsection (4) or pay the amount determined by a damage assessment performed by the department. If the person responsible for the discharge elects to have a damage assessment performed, then such person shall notify the department in writing of such decision within 30 days after identification of the discharge by the department. The decision to have a damage assessment performed to determine compensation for a discharge shall be final; the person responsible for a discharge may not later elect to use the compensation schedule for computing compensation. Failure to make such notice shall result in the amount of compensation for the total damage to natural resources being calculated based on the compensation schedule. The compensation shall be paid within 90 days after receipt of a written request from the department.
(b) In the event the person responsible for a discharge elects to have a damage assessment performed, said person shall pay to the department an amount equal to the compensation calculated pursuant to subsection (4) for the discharge using the lesser of the volume of the discharge or a volume of 30,000 gallons. The payment shall be made within 90 days after receipt of a written request from the department.
(c) After completion of the damage assessment, the department shall advise the person responsible for the discharge of the amount of compensation due to the state. A credit shall be given for the amount paid pursuant to paragraph (b). Payment shall be made within 90 days after receipt of a written request from the department.
(11)(a) Moneys recovered by the department as compensation for damage to natural resources shall be expended only for the following purposes:
1. To the maximum extent practicable, the restoration of natural resources damaged by the discharge for which compensation is paid.
2. Restoration of damaged resources.
3. Developing restoration and enhancement techniques for natural resources.
4. Investigating methods for improving and refining techniques for containment, abatement, and removal of pollutants from the environment, especially from mangrove forests, corals, seagrasses, benthic communities, rookeries, nurseries, and other habitats which are unique to Florida’s coastal environment.
5. Developing and updating the “Sensitivity of Coastal Environments and Wildlife to Spilled Oil in Florida” atlas.
6. Investigating the long-term effects of pollutant discharges on natural resources, including pelagic organisms, critical habitats, and marine ecosystems.
7. Developing an adequate wildlife rescue and rehabilitation program.
8. Expanding and enhancing the state’s pollution prevention and control education program.
9. Restoring natural resources previously impacted by pollutant discharges, but never completely restored.
10. Funding alternative projects selected by the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund. Any such project shall be selected on the basis of its anticipated benefits to the marine natural resources available to the residents of this state who previously benefited from the injured or destroyed nonrestorable natural resources.
(b) All interest earned from investment of moneys recovered by the department for damage to natural resources shall be expended only for the activities described in paragraph (a).
(c) The person or parties responsible for a discharge for which the department has requested compensation for damage pursuant to this section shall pay the department, within 90 days after receipt of the request, the entire amount due to the state. In the event that payment is not made within the 90 days, the person or parties are liable for interest on the outstanding balance, which interest shall be calculated at the rate prescribed under s. 55.03.
(12) Any determination or assessment of damage to natural resources for the purposes of this section by the department in accordance with the compensation sections or in accordance with the rules adopted under subsection (10) shall have the force and effect of rebuttable presumption on behalf of the department in any administrative or judicial proceeding.
(13) There shall be no double recovery under this law for natural resource damage resulting from a discharge, including the costs of damage assessment or restoration, rehabilitation, replacement, or acquisition for the same incident and natural resource. The department shall meet with and develop memoranda of understanding with appropriate federal trustees as defined in Pub. L. No. 101-380 (Oil Pollution Act of 1990) to provide further assurances of no double recovery.
History.—s. 19, ch. 90-54; s. 2, ch. 92-113; s. 294, ch. 94-356; s. 9, ch. 96-263; s. 196, ch. 99-245; s. 3, ch. 2005-166; s. 84, ch. 2010-102; s. 35, ch. 2013-18.