Federal Facilities:

Agencies Slow to Define the Scope and Cost of Hazardous Waste Site Cleanups

RCED-94-73: Published: Apr 15, 1994. Publicly Released: May 18, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined the status of federal efforts to identify federal facilities requiring hazardous waste cleanup under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

GAO found that: (1) the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Energy (DOE) and other agencies have mostly completed their efforts to identify hazardous waste sites requiring cleanup and have reported candidate facilities to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); (2) some Department of Agriculture (USDA) units have nearly completed their inventories, but the Forest Service, some Department of the Interior agencies, the Coast Guard, and the Federal Aviation Administration are continuing to inventory their facilities; (3) Interior and USDA cited the size of their landholdings, resource limitations, and liability issues as reasons why they have not completed site inventories; (4) the latest DOD estimate of long-term cleanup costs totalled $24.5 billion; (5) DOE has estimated that its cleanup costs will total at least $54 billion, and it is now required to update its total cleanup cost estimate annually; (6) USDA and Department of Transportation agencies have also made estimates; (7) Interior and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have not estimated their cleanup costs; (8) an underlying cause of the slow progress in site inventories and cost estimates is the absence of statutory requirements for inventories and cost estimates, and the lack of EPA oversight over agency activities; and (9) securities laws require private companies to disclose and estimate the cost of their environmental liabilities.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matters for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: Congress should amend CERCLA to require agencies to submit plans for completing their hazardous waste site inventories to EPA for review and approval. These plans should contain schedules of work and deadlines for completing the site inventories.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The congressional debate on CERCLA reauthorization indicates that Congress will not adopt this recommendation.

    Matter: Congress should amend CERCLA to require agencies to report annually to EPA on progress in implementing plans for completing the site inventories.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The congressional debate on CERCLA reauthorization indicates that Congress will not adopt this recommendation.

    Matter: Congress should amend CERCLA to require agencies to develop, update as needed, and report to EPA, in accordance with guidance to be promulgated by EPA, estimates (or ranges of estimates for alternative cleanup standards) of the total costs to clean up their potential hazardous waste sites.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The congressional debate on CERCLA reauthorization indicates that Congress will not adopt this recommendation.

    Matter: Congress should amend CERCLA to require EPA to report annually to Congress on agencies' progress toward completing their site inventories and on their latest estimates of total cleanup costs.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The congressional debate on CERCLA reauthorization indicates that Congress will not adopt this recommendation.

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