This is 1 of 4 papers reporting on the results of a SETAC technical workshop titled “The Nexus Between Ecological Risk Assessment and Natural Resource Damage Assessment Under CERCLA: Understanding and Improving the Common Scientific Underpinnings,” held 18–22 August 2008 in Montana, USA, to examine approaches to ecological risk assessment and natural resource damage assessment in US contaminated site cleanup legislation known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
A SETAC Technical Workshop titled “The Nexus Between Ecological Risk Assessment and Natural Resource Damage Assessment Under CERCLA: Understanding and Improving the Common Scientific Underpinnings,” was held 18–22 August 2008 in Gregson, Montana, USA, to examine the linkage, nexus, and overlap between ecological risk assessment (ERA) and natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Experts from a broad range of relevant scientific, legal, and policy disciplines convened to 1) ascertain the potential for improved scientific harmonization of the processes of ERA and NRDA; 2) identify where statutory, regulatory, or scientific constraints might exist that would constrain or preclude the harmonization of the 2 processes; 3) determine approaches that might overcome these constraints; and 4) recommend research or potential changes in regulatory policies that might serve to improve both processes. This is the introduction to a series of 3 papers that describe the findings and conclusions of this workshop. Although unanimity was not achieved on all technical, legal, or policy questions posed to the participants, some consensus areas did arise. First, there appear to be few if any legal constraints to using the environmental data collected for ERA or NRDA for both processes. Second, although it is important to recognize and preserve the distinctions between ERA and NRDA, opportunities for data sharing exist, particularly for the characterization of environmental exposures and derivation of ecotoxicological information. Thus, effective coordination is not precluded by the underlying science. Where a cooperative, interactive process is involved among the response agencies, the natural resource trustees, and the responsible party(s), technical, legal or regulatory constraints can be minimized. Finally, one approach that might enhance the potential applicability of data collected for the ERA is to consider ecosystem services in the development of assessment endpoints. These points are explained in greater detail in the series of papers published herein.