EPA Could Do More to Reduce Responsible Parties' Legal Expenses

T-RCED-93-73: Published: Sep 28, 1993. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 1993.

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GAO discussed possible ways to reduce the costs of resolving liability for hazardous waste cleanup in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Superfund program, focusing on EPA use of: (1) de minimis settlements for parties that contribute comparatively small amounts of low-toxicity waste; (2) nonbinding allocations of responsibility (NBAR) for clean-up costs; (3) mixed-funding agreements between EPA and parties to share clean-up costs; and (4) neutral third-parties to help resolve liability and cost allocation problems. GAO noted that: (1) EPA has completed de minimis settlements at only 69 sites, prepared NBAR at 5 sites, used mixed-funding arrangements at 16 sites, and employed alternative dispute resolution techniques at 30 sites; (2) EPA has been concerned with getting as many responsible party-financed cleanups under way as quickly as possible; (3) EPA use of settlement tools has been difficult to implement; (4) EPA has begun to give settlement tools a higher priority due to widespread complaints about high transaction costs; (5) EPA current settlement efforts involve mostly pilot projects; and (6) expanded use of one of these tools could be expensive and complicate settlement negotiations.

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