Waste Cleanup:

Implications of Compliance Agreements on DOE's Cleanup Program

GAO-02-852T: Published: Jul 19, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 19, 2002.

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Compliance agreements between the Department of Energy (DOE) and its regulators specify cleanup activities and milestones that DOE has agreed to achieve. The 70 compliance agreements at DOE sites vary, but can be divided into three main types. These are: (1) agreements specifically required by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 to address cleanup of federal sites on EPA's national priorities list or by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 to address the management of mixed radioactive and hazardous waste at DOE facilities; (2) court-ordered agreements resulting from lawsuits initiated primarily by states; and (3) other agreements, including state administrative orders enforcing state hazardous waste management laws. DOE reported completing about 80 percent of its milestones by the time originally scheduled in the agreements. The cost of complying with these agreements is not specifically identified in the DOE budget submitted to Congress. Individual DOE sites develop annual compliance cost estimates as part of their budget requests. However, DOE headquarters officials adjust those individual site estimates to reflect national priorities and to reconcile various competing demands. Compliance agreements are site-specific and are not intended to provide a mechanism for DOE to use in prioritizing risks among the various sites. Compliance agreements have not been a barrier to previous DOE management initiatives, but it is not clear if the compliance agreements will be used to oppose DOE's latest initiative to focus on accelerating risk reduction at sites.

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