Superfund 2017: Cleanup Accomplishments and the Challenges Ahead

A White Paper Commissioned by ACEC

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), better known as “Superfund,” is now in its 37th year. At the start of a new presidential administration it is timely, once again, to review the progress of the Superfund remedial program aimed at cleaning up sites on the National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL is the list of sites where federal funds can be used to pay for remedial actions or more colloquially, what are referred to as long-term cleanups. The NPL has become synonymous with those sites that are the highest oriority in the country: contaminated areas warranting federal funding, federal enforcement action, or both.

The purpose of this paper is to provide information on the overall progress of the remedial program, looking at both the number and types of sites added to the NPL since FY 2000 as well as at key measures of program success. Program funding is also examined as one of the questions that has plagued the program for many years is whether Congress is appropriating adequate funds to ensure the timely cleanup of sites. This paper focuses on sites on the NPL that are not owned or operated by federal agencies (referred to as “non-federal” NPL sites) from FY 2000 through FY 2016; proposed NPL sites, federal facilities, and Superfund al ternative sites are not addressed. Where appropriate, actual EPA expenditures and accomplishments are compared with the estimates that were presented in a 2001 Report to Congress, Superfund’s Future: What Will It Cost?, published by Resources for the Future (RFF).

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