Reauthorization and Prioritization Issues

T-RCED-94-274: Published: Jul 20, 1994. Publicly Released: Jul 20, 1994.

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GAO discussed the Superfund reauthorization bill and its report on the role of risk in setting priorities for the Superfund program. GAO noted that: (1) the reauthorization bill would improve Superfund site cleanup, increase public involvement in the Superfund process, and expedite settlements with responsible parties with relatively low liability; (2) Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require more information to determine the cost implications of greater federal financial involvement in Superfund; (3) EPA sets priorities for site cleanups based on how long the sites have been in the cleanup queue, rather than on the basis of risk; (4) EPA could recover more indirect costs from responsible parties if legislative changes are made; and (5) the reauthorization bill would shift unallocated cleanup expenses to the federal government.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: It appears unlikely that the Congress will comprehensively reauthorize the Superfund program and address this recommendation legislatively. Nevertheless, GAO has determined that the five agencies conducting cleanups--the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency--have made significant progress in implementing processes to set priorities for their limited cleanup dollars based on, in part, the relative risk of those sites ready for funding.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider amending the Superfund legislation to underscore the importance of ranking hazardous waste sites so that resources are targeted to the worst sites first.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Based on a review of provisions in the proposals to reauthorize the Superfund program, the Congress does not intend to take these actions.

    Matter: Congress could encourage cost-recovery efforts by authorizing EPA to accrue interest on its expenditures earlier in the process and to apply market rates and by requiring EPA to define more broadly which costs are recoverable.


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