Statement of Senator James M. Jeffords
Superfund Oversight Hearing
Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics, Risk, and Waste Management
Committee on Environment and Public Works
April 10, 2002
I commend Senator Boxer for conducting today=s hearing on the Superfund program. Oversight of the Superfund program is a critical task for the Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics, Risk, and Waste Management. Senator Boxer=s efforts have the full support of this Committee.
The Committee on Environment and Public Works is committed to the success of the Superfund program. This goal transcends party lines as demonstrated by the March 8 audit request to each of the EPA=s ten regional offices. Senators Bob Smith and Lincoln Chafee joined Senator Boxer and myself in requesting information on whether a shift in Superfund revenue composition is affecting site remediation progress.
I am concerned that it took EPA a full month to comply with this request. The information we sought about site progress and cost estimates should have been readily available from the regions. I have to believe that EPA=s regional offices are better organized than this exercise has demonstrated. Therefore, it raises questions and concerns about EPA=s intent, especially in light of the e-mail that has come to the Committee=s attention. In this message, EPA headquarters directed regional managers not to discuss site slowdowns or financial shortfalls.
I should not need to, nor will I again, remind EPA that it is not their perogative to limit information provided to this Committee and to Congress.
All evidence points to a slowdown in the Superfund program. EPA=s own data illustrates several areas of concern. First, EPA reports that eight NPL sites did not proceed due to a lack of funding in FY2001. This number is unknown for FY2002. Second, every region but one will experience a decline in construction completions from FY2001 to FY2003. Third, every region will experience a decline in new starts from FY2001 to FY2002. Finally, concerns are raised by a discrepancy in the regions= estimated numbers of fund-lead sites, and therefore what portion of the total cost of NPL site cleanup, estimated by EPA to exceed $9.3 billion in nine of the regions, will fall on to the shoulders of taxpayers.
Currently, Superfund projects are moving forward as expected in Vermont. However, I understand that funding could present a problem as early as this Fall. I am particularly concerned about the Pownal Tannery and Elizabeth Mine Superfund sites and the availability of funds to keep pace with ongoing progress at these Vermont sites.
EPA=s response to this Committee=s inquiry leaves many questions unanswered. What is the reason behind EPA=s slowdown of the Superfund cleanup program? Is the Administration=s refusal to seek reauthorization of the Superfund taxes contributing to this slowdown? Is EPA headquarters providing the regions with the necessary guidance and support to ensure the Superfund program=s success?
I am hopeful that today=s hearing will shed some light on these issues.