Superfund:

Information on EPA's Administrative Reforms

RCED-97-174R: Published: May 30, 1997. Publicly Released: May 30, 1997.

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Pursuant to congressional requests, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) reforms to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and fairness of the Superfund program, focusing on the: (1) nature and scope of the reforms' implementation; (2) demonstrated accomplishments that may have resulted from them; and (3) additional legal authority EPA believes it needs to correct the underlying problems addressed by the reforms.

GAO noted that: (1) EPA considers 25 of its 45 reforms to be fundamental changes in the way the agency is implementing Superfund; (2) EPA expects 22 of these reforms to be implemented programwide and the remaining 3 to be implemented at selected sites; (3) 10 other reforms are designed to improve the program's communications, consistency, or operations; (4) while EPA expects all of its regions to implement 4 of these reforms, the remaining 6 are considered "regional tools" to be used at the discretion of regional project managers; (5) in addition, 10 reforms consist of pilot projects that are testing concepts at selected sites and, as such, are not expected to be implemented programwide now; (6) while EPA has not evaluated the overall effects of the reforms, the agency has reported quantifiable accomplishments resulting from the implementation of 6 of the 45 reforms; (7) EPA provided full or partial documentation to support accomplishments from 4 of the reforms; (8) these accomplishments are measured in cost savings at selected sites; (9) EPA has not yet demonstrated whether and to what extent the remaining reforms are accomplishing their objectives; (10) EPA stated that the results of many of its implementation efforts are not quantifiable in terms of cost and time savings and that many have achieved qualitative results that are not readily measurable; (11) EPA officials told GAO that, in general, they need no additional legislative authority to correct the problems that the reforms are designed to address; and (12) however, EPA believes that additional legal authority would facilitate the correction of some remaining problems, including issues relating to the economic redevelopment of contaminated urban industrial sites, job training, block funding for states and tribes, and protection from liability for contributors of very small volumes of waste.

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