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EPA Needs to Provide Better Data to Congress to Make Superfund Program Work -- GAO
August 17, 2009

Contact:

Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (202)224-9797 -Inhofe

David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov (202)224-5642 -Inhofe

Aaron Winters Aaron.Winters@mail.house.gov  (847)940-0202 -Kirk

 EPA Needs to Provide Better Data to Congress to Make Superfund Program Work -- GAO

Link to GAO Report

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, along with Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL), welcomed a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) exposing EPA’s failure to provide Congress with important data on the Superfund program. 

According to the report, titled “Litigation Has Decreased and EPA Needs Better Information on Site Cleanup and Cost Issues to Estimate Future Program Funding Requirement,” GAO found that “even though remedial actions at most sites are completed or underway, the amount of work remaining is unclear; and, given the nature of sites that are not yet construction complete, the remaining work may be more complex or costly. These changes have occurred even as Superfund appropriations and expenditures have declined. However, EPA does not provide the Congress with sufficient information to make decisions about future funding needs of the Superfund program.”

In November 2006, Sen. Inhofe and Representative Kirk requested the report to examine Superfund’s litigation and program costs.

“This GAO report makes clear that EPA needs to provide Congress with better data on the Superfund program,” Senator Inhofe said.  “Before deciding how much taxpayers should spend to clean up these sites, Congress should hold EPA accountable by establishing clear performance metrics to measure success in cleaning up Superfund sites.   EPA needs to have a clear budget, clear goals, and a metric for performance.  Although this report took two years for GAO to process, it is clear that EPA still does not know how much the total program will cost, unable to quantify the amount of work remaining, what the total debt of the program will be, and with these unanswered questions they continue to add sites to the National Priorities List (NPL) without looking at the upfront costs.”

Representative Kirk said, “The Superfund program is intended to remove threats to human health that local communities are unable or unwilling to fix.  In my congressional district, we have spent nearly 30 years cleaning up Waukegan Harbor, a site polluted with hundreds of thousands of pounds of deadly Polychlorinated Biphenyls.  The site will soon be listed for cleanup, but if the EPA doesn’t know how much this program will cost and cannot even estimate the billions in litigation expenses, there will be no way to speed the cleanup.  The Superfund program is now three decades old, yet nearly 80 percent of sites remain polluted.  Congress and the White House should join in reforms to accelerate this program, reducing court costs and boosting real cleanup efforts.”

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