Natural Resource Damage Claims

T-RCED-95-182: Published: May 11, 1995. Publicly Released: May 11, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed natural resource damage claim settlements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), focusing on the: (1) number and value of such claims; and (2) potential extent of future claims. GAO noted that: (1) relatively few natural resource damage settlements have been reached to date; (2) as of April 1995, the federal government had settled 98 cases for an estimated total cost of $106 million; (3) federal and state officials could not estimate the number and value of future settlements, since future claims depend significantly on the extent and thoroughness of cleanup efforts; (4) there are three known cases where pending or future claims could total about $500 million or more; (5) cleanup costs for federal facilities are already substantial due to the number of sites with high levels of contamination; (6) potential damage settlements could significantly increase cleanup costs; and (7) Department of Energy officials expect that damage claims for their sites will be substantial, since many sites cannot be fully remediated.

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