The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA or Superfund) authorized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cleanup hazardous waste sites and compel the responsible parties to help conduct and pay for remediation. The program has been criticized for its inefficiency, and legislation has been introduced in Congress to allow states more responsibility. Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Control, and Risk Assessment Chairman Bob Smith (R-NH) and Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Chairman John Chafee (R-RI) requested that the General Accounting Office report on the lessons learned from several states with significant experience in leading Superfund cleanups and how the EPA can ensure interested states are successful in their efforts. The report, entitled Superfund: Stronger EPA-State Relationships Can Improve Cleanups and Reduce Costs, was released to the public in May.
The study examined the state/EPA relationships in five states through interviews with EPA and state Superfund officials, as well as industry, environment, and community representatives. Three states -- Washington, Minnesota, and Wisconsin-- have been given considerable independence by EPA to manage sites, while two states--New Hampshire and Texas-- feel they should be allowed more responsibility. All states agreed, however, that EPA support is still necessary in many areas. Limited state budgets require EPA funds for cleanup and EPA activities in innovative technology research and development. States also preferred for EPA to take the lead on orphaned sites, as well as large and complex sites.
The report suggests creating criteria to help EPA judge a state's readiness to lead cleanup efforts. The criteria should be aimed at facilitating state involvement. Once a state has been deemed capable, an agreement that delineates responsibilities should be reached, as to prevent duplication of efforts. Copies of the report are available from GAO's web site, by calling (202) 512-6000, or faxing a request to (301) 258-4066.
Contributed by Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs.
Last updated July 9, 1997