What are GRP?
GRP are oil spill response plans tailored to protect a specific sensitive area from impacts following a spill. These response plans are map-based strategies that can save time during the critical first few hours of an oil spill response. They show responders where sensitive areas are located and where to place oil spill protection resources.
GRP have been developed in several regions of the U.S., including Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Maine, and New Hampshire. In nearly all areas, the GRP (sometimes referred to as GRS, geographic response strategies) represent the consensus product of a planning effort involving state and federal oil spill response agencies, natural resource trustees, spill responders, industry, stakeholders, and the public.
Why develop GRP?
The initial phase of an oil spill response can be quite hectic. Multiple objectives must be met using available resources and responders. At the local level, residents and emergency responders are often the first ones to show up at the shoreline, eager to act before the spilled oil reaches sensitive shoreline environments.
The process of developing GRP brings together diverse groups in a non-emergency setting to discuss environmental sensitivities, protection priorities, response strategies, and response constraints. GRP development fosters local buy-in and creates realistic expectations for protecting sensitive areas from oil spill impacts.
GRP use standard terminology and tactics presented in a field-oriented format so that responders can easily recognize and implement the strategies. Because of this standardization, GRPs are an important tool for training and preparedness as well as response.
How are GRP used?
GRP are tactical plans that provide a set of “directions” to initial responders for how to protect environmentally sensitive areas and resources from oil impacts. GRP sites are selected based on several criteria, and response strategies are developed for those sites in advance of an oil spill. When local responders arrive at the scene, they now have an implementation to deploy pre-staged equipment at sensitive sites.
The Massachusetts GRP will be incorporated into the appropriate Area Plan for oil spill and hazardous materials response. While these plans are NOT a mandate for site protection or response, they are available to government and private industry oil spill responders if needed.
How are GRP developed?
A collaborative Planning Group will oversee Massachusetts GRP development. The group will begin by selecting candidate sites for the GRP area (note: the Cape and Islands region has been selected for the first round of GRP development beginning in 2007). Information will be compiled about candidate sites through sensitivity maps, local knowledge, site surveys, trustee agency input, and public comment.
A Tactics sub-group will be responsible for identifying a set of “core” oil spill response tactics appropriate for the Massachusetts shoreline based on the spill response resources available to first responders, the resources at risk, and the coastal geomorphology. These core tactics will then be applied to each GRP site in order to meet the particular protection goals.
GRP are drafted, reviewed, and when possible field-verified. Field testing may result in modifications to the GRP. GRP can be tested during scheduled training exercises, unannounced readiness drills, or actual oil spills. An important part of the process is to keep these documents “evergreen” by updating them as needed.
Who will be involved in the MassDEP GRP project?
A GRP Planning Group is being formed to oversee the MassDEP GRP project. This group, which is co-chaired by several state and federal agencies, includes representatives of local government, the oil industry, spill response experts, natural resource trustees, stakeholder groups, and the public.
All Planning Group meetings will be open to the public and meeting information will be published on the project website.