Limited Use Made of Techniques to Reduce Legal Expenses

T-RCED-94-74: Published: Nov 8, 1993. Publicly Released: Nov 8, 1993.

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GAO discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) use of settlement tools to expedite Superfund settlements and reduce transaction costs for Superfund hazardous waste liability claims. GAO noted that: (1) EPA is unable to fully demonstrate the effectiveness of settlement tools because its use of them has been limited; (2) EPA has completed de minimus settlements at only 73 nonfederal sites, prepared nonbinding allocations of responsibility at 5 sites, and employed alternative dispute resolution techniques at 35 sites; (3) reasons for EPA limited use of settlement tools include a lack of effort to promote their use in EPA regional offices, other EPA enforcement priorities, and restrictive administrative procedures that make the tools difficult to implement; (4) although EPA has begun to give the settlement tools higher priority because of widespread complaints about high transaction costs, it needs to ensure that settlement tools become fully operational and an integral part of its operation; (5) the expanded use of one of the settlement tools could complicate settlement negotiations; and (6) EPA needs to focus on reducing Superfund transaction costs by assessing the potential applicability of settlement tools, creating regional accountability, targeting resources, reviewing administrative procedures, and making responsible parties aware of the availability of settlement tools.

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