Pruitt Calls for Streamlined Superfund Cleanup Program

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By Steven Gibb

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is seeking recommendations on how to optimize EPA oversight of the superfund program and increase the roles played by tribes, states, regions, and other federal departments in cleanup decisions.

In a May 22 memo to staff, Pruitt outlined his charge to a task force designed to streamline the contaminated land program, with a special focus on sediment sites.

Pruitt asked the task force to develop recommendations over the next 30 days to “realign incentives of all involved parties to promote expeditious remediation, reduce the burden on cooperating parties, incentivize parties to remediate sites, encourage private investment in cleanups and sites and promote the revitalization of properties across the country.”

The task force will be chaired by one of Pruitt’s senior advisers, Albert Kelly, and will include representatives from EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Office of General Counsel, EPA Region 3, and others. EPA Region 3 office in Philadelphia currently is the lead region for the superfund program, a role that rotates among the agency’s regional offices.

Pruitt Focused on Cleanups

Earlier this month, Pruitt announced he will be more involved in superfund cleanup decisions and intends to formally approve any decision where site cleanup is expected to cost more than $50 million.

A superfund attorney speaking on background said “numerous regulated entities have already weighed in on superfund reforms as part of comments on priorities for deregulatory action under the Trump Executive Orders.”

In the May 22 memo, Pruitt outlined his own vision for the program, which includes improved EPA interaction with other federal agencies at federal facilities and an expanded role for tribal, state, and local governments; local and regional economic development zones; and public-private partnerships. The task force’s work should include a “reexamination of the level of agency oversight necessary,” Pruitt wrote.

Pruitt also seeks an expansion of EPA’s use of tools to promote private investment of contaminated land and sediment sites so communities can use the land or waterway again.

An environmental advocate cautioned that Pruitt’s task force won’t be able to effectively speed up superfund cleanups if the program’s budget is cut.

“Pruitt’s push to accelerate Superfund clean-up is welcome, but a task force won’t get the job done if there’s no money to complete the work,” Bonnie Gestring, Northwest program director for Earthworks, told Bloomberg BNA in an email. “The severe budget cuts proposed for the Superfund program are the real problem, and will no doubt exacerbate the lengthy delays that communities already face.”

For More Information

Pruitt's Memo on Streamlining superfund is available at http://src.bna.com/o6W.

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