Superfund Task Force Report Published with 41 Recommendations
The Superfund Task Force's report comes in response to Administrator Scott Pruitt’s request on May 22, 2017 to make recommendations that address: expediting cleanup and remediation process; reducing financial burden on all parties involved in the entire cleanup process; encouraging private investment; promoting redevelopment and community revitalization; and, building and strengthening partnerships.
The core mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect the health of our citizens and the environment in which we all live. Action now serves to preserve that environment for future generations. Under Administrator Pruitt’s leadership, EPA is focused on returning to that essential core mission. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act or (CERCLA) also known as ‘Superfund’ was signed into law on December 11, 1980. Since its beginning, the Superfund Program has made remarkable achievements, most of which represent significant contributions to the nation’s collective health and quality of life. Superfund, with its many tools, abates and remediates sites contaminated with hazardous waste and reduces risk to both humans and the environment as a whole.
The National Priorities List (NPL) came into existence in 1983. It represents those properties that are the most contaminated and pose the most risk to human health and the environment. Since that time, many sites have been listed on the NPL and many have been remediated and removed. However, sites still remain and each year sites are added to the list. As of June 21, 2017, there are 1,336 sites on the NPL, of which 1,179 are private sites and 157 are Federal Facility sites. Many of these are in different stages of completion and will move off the NPL list in the future, once site completion is achieved. As such, much work still remains. This plan will improve and expedite the process of site remediation and promote reuse.
Administrator Pruitt commissioned the Superfund Task Force on May 22, 2017. The Task Force was charged to ‘provide recommendations on an expedited timeframe on how the agency can restructure the cleanup process, realign incentives of all involved parties to promote expeditious remediation, reduce the burden on cooperating parties, incentivize parties to remediate sites, encourage private investment in cleanups and sites and promote the revitalization of properties across the country.’ To focus their mission more precisely, the Task Force was given 30 days to complete its mission.
This document presents a set of recommendations that are reflective of the expectations of substantive action from the Administrator. It does not represent all potential actions that may be needed in the future. Rather, it represents a good beginning that will lead to program efficiencies and identify areas for further refining. Importantly, such refinement will be the subject of close stakeholder engagement as we seek to strengthen our partnerships with all those involved in the Superfund process. The recommended actions in this document are reflective of this Administrator’s top priorities to reinvigorate and prioritize the Superfund program in a most expeditious manner.
The goals of this plan reflect the charge received by the Administrator, namely:
- Expediting Cleanup and Remediation
- Re-Invigorating Responsible Party Cleanup and Reuse
- Encouraging Private Investment
- Promoting Redevelopment and Community Revitalization
- Engaging Partners and Stakeholders
The plan provides for specific actions, offers time frames for commencement, and identifies EPA staff responsible for each action’s implementation. The specific actions outlined are all planned to commence within twelve months and many will be initiated immediately following the approval of the plan. Components of the plan may be revised to include additional actions that may be taken at any stage of feedback, preparation, or implementation. Again, such revisions, improvements, and even additions to the plan are anticipated as the Task Force engages with our many stakeholders on the plan’s details in an effort to greatly enhance our partnerships throughout the Superfund process. Therefore, the plan was designed to be fluid, dynamic, adaptable and provide both substance and accountability. It will be a living, ever improving action plan.
The Task Force had many members participate. Over the course of this project, upwards of 80 highly experienced EPA professionals, including management and staff, were involved. Five groups, one for each goal, were formed to develop recommendations. The groups’ chairs were Dana Stalcup, Ken Patterson, Karen Melvin, Betsy Smidinger, Monica Gardner, Debra Morey, Frank Avvisato, Matthew Tejada, Greg Gervais, Silvina Fonseca and Cyndy Mackey. These individuals used their extensive program knowledge and experience to develop the specific actions identified in the plan. Additionally, many unsolicited, but welcome, letters and white papers were received from industry, trade groups and individual companies which were considered by the Task Force members. Ultimately, the Task Force carefully considered many proposed recommendations but put forth a specific set of actions that could make a difference and meet the charge from the Administrator. Many of these recommendations will be the basis for future actions and plan revisions.
The Superfund Task Force Report identifies a number of opportunities to accelerate cleanup and reuse of Superfund cleanups. This effort identified 42 recommendations that can be initiated without legislative changes during the next year. These recommendations and other innovative ideas will be considered and applied to Superfund Sites with priority given to addressing NPL sites.
A summary of the proposals is below:
High attention [should be] given to the Administrator’s keen focus on sites that have seemingly taken far too long to remediate. This will be accomplished by:
- Establishing an “Administrator’s Top Ten” list which will get his weekly attention.
- Directing inquiry and resources as necessary to sites that have been on the NPL for five years or longer without a significant movement.
- Reviewing all remedy review and approval authorities so as to have consistency across the nation.
Third party investments in NPL cleanups will become an operational way for the agency to accelerate cleanups and promote reuse of NPL sites. This will be done by identifying reuse candidate sites that are selected to pilot innovative tools and incentives. This includes:
- Publicizing site-specific information, including reuse fact sheets to inform the community and developers about properties with reuse potential.
- Engaging communities in identifying cleanup and reuse opportunities.
- Entering into site-specific agreements that define the responsibilities and liabilities of a third party investor.
- Utilizing alternative approaches to financing site cleanups, including environmental liability transfer approaches.
- Working with PRPs to better integrate reuse needs into cleanup activities.
NPL sites at which remedies have already been selected will be prioritized for faster completion and deletion from the NPL. Tools to achieve this goal include:
- Requiring Remedy Completion Strategies to identify next steps and track progress.
- Conducting Optimization Reviews, including identification of fifteen sites at which to immediately pilot such review.
- Implementing early response actions at selected portions of sites.
- Finishing sites where construction is completed or nearly completed in order to transition the site from “Remedial Action” to “Ready for Reuse” to Deletion, as appropriate.
NPL sites in the assessment and investigation stages will be expedited by applying new technologies and approaches, including:
- Utilizing state of the art technologies, including using conceptual site model technologies at ten NPL sites.
- Increasing access to technical resources.
- Promoting Adaptive Management at Complex Sites, including using Interim/Early Actions.
- Clarifying Groundwater Cleanup Goals
Efforts to secure PRP commitments to perform timely, high quality cleanup will be invigorated. EPA will provide increased inducements and deterrents to encourage PRPs to quickly complete negotiations and cleanup commitments, including:
- Reducing oversight costs for PRPs that perform timely, high quality work. This may include a compromise that reduces indirect cost charging. It may also include designating a singular agency or third party to oversee certain aspects of the cleanup.
- Increasing PRP and agency personnel adherence to project deadlines.
- Utilizing enforcement authorities to get work underway quickly and to keep work on schedule.
- Streamlining the dispute resolution process at Federal Facilities and private sites so that final decisions are promptly made and quickly implemented.
- Ongoing and robust dialogue with stakeholders
- Use of the input and feedback from these stakeholders to continuously upgrade the plan
- Higher focus on our Federal industry partners
- Joint identification of barriers to success
The Plan includes many more details and other actions. Download the entire plan now.
An outline of the plans goals, strategies and recommendations follows below:
GOAL 1: EXPEDITING CLEANUP AND REMEDIATION
STRATEGY 1: EVALUATE AND ACCELERATE NATIONAL PRIORITIES LIST (NPL) SITES TO COMPLETION
RECOMMENDATION 1: Target NPL Sites That Are Not Showing Sufficient Progress Towards Site Cleanup and Completion
RECOMMENDATION 2: Develop Strategies for NPL Sites where Remedies have been Selected to Move Sites Towards NPL Deletion
STRATEGY 2: PROMOTE THE APPLICATION OF ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT AT COMPLEX SITES AND EXPEDITE CLEANUP THROUGH USE OF EARLY/INTERIM RODS AND REMOVAL ACTIONS
RECOMMENDATION 3: Broaden the Use of Adaptive Management (AM) at Superfund Sites
STRATEGY 3: CLARIFY POLICIES/GUIDANCE TO EXPEDITE REMEDIATION
RECOMMENDATION 4: To Better Promote National Consistency and Review, Update the Authority for Approval of the Remedy Selection While Considering the Retained Authority of the Administrator
RECOMMENDATION 5: Clarify Priorities for RI/FS Resources and Encourage Performing Interim/Early Actions During the RI/FS Process to Address Immediate Risks
RECOMMENDATION 6: Provide Clarification to the Principles for Superfund Groundwater Restoration
STRATEGY 4: USE BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES, SYSTEMATIC PLANNING, REMEDY OPTIMIZATION, AND ACCESS TO EXPERT TECHNICAL RESOURCES TO EXPEDITE REMEDIATION
RECOMMENDATION 7: Promote Use of Third-Party Optimization Throughout the Remediation Process and Focus Optimization on Complex Sites or Sites of Significant Public Interest
RECOMMENDATION 8: Reinforce Focused Scoping Which Closely Targets the Specific Areas for Remediation and Identify and Use Best Management Practices (BMP) in the RI/FS Stage
RECOMMENDATION 9: Utilize State-Of-The-Art Technologies to Expedite Cleanup
RECOMMENDATION 10: Develop a Technical Support Team and Tools to Inform RPMs Regarding Available Resources to Assist with Best Management Practice (BMP) Applications, Including Scoping and Targeted Technical Reviews
RECOMMENDATION 11: Review all Third-Party Contracting Procedures, Large EPAApproved Contractors, and Contracts to Determine Appropriate Use Parameters and Qualification Methods for EPA Contracting
GOAL 2: RE-INVIGORATING RESPONSIBLE PARTY CLEANUP AND REUSE
STRATEGY 1: ENCOURAGE AND FACILITATE RESPONSIBLE PARTIES’ EXPEDITIOUS AND THOROUGH CLEAN-UP OF SITES TO EFFECT RE-USE MORE QUICKLY
RECOMMENDATION 12: Recommend Consideration and Use of Early Response Actions at Superfund Sites, Particularly Sediment Sites, While Comprehensive Negotiations Are Underway for the Entire Cleanup
RECOMMENDATION 13: Identify Opportunities to Utilize Various Federal and State Authorities to Conduct Response Actions that are Consistent with CERCLA and the NCP
RECOMMENDATION 14: Maximize the Use of Special Accounts to Facilitate Site Cleanup and/or Redevelopment
RECOMMENDATION 15: Speed Up Settlement Process Where There Are Federal PRPs at a Site
RECOMMENDATION 16: Provide Reduced-Oversight Incentives to Cooperative, High-performing PRPs, and Make Full Use of Enforcement Tools as Disincentives for Protracted Negotiations, or Slow Performance Under Existing Cleanup Agreements
RECOMMENDATION 17: Adjust Financial Assurance (FA) Required Under Enforcement Documents to Reduce Cooperating PRP’s Financial Burden While Ensuring Resources Are Available to Complete Cleanups
RECOMMENDATION 18: Reinforce the Federal Facility Agreement Informal and Formal Dispute Timelines
STRATEGY 2: CREATE OVERSIGHT EFFICIENCIES FOR PRP LEAD CLEANUPS
RECOMMENDATION 19: Expand Cleanup Capacity by Designating One Agency Lead for Each Project in Order to Reduce Overlap and Duplication
RECOMMENDATION 20: Identify Opportunities to Engage Independent Third Parties to Oversee Certain Aspects of PRP Lead Cleanups
STRATEGY 3: PROMOTE REDEVELOPMENT/REUSE OF SITES BY ENCOURAGING PRPS TO INVEST IN REUSE OUTCOMES
RECOMMENDATION 21: Facilitate Site Redevelopment During Cleanup by Encouraging PRPs to Fully Integrate and Implement Reuse Opportunities into Investigations and Cleanups of NPL Sites
GOAL 3: ENCOURAGING PRIVATE INVESTMENT
STRATEGY 1: USE ALTERNATIVE AND NON-TRADITIONAL APPROACHES FOR FINANCING SITE CLEANUPS
RECOMMENDATION 22: Explore Environmental Liability Transfer (ELT) Approaches and Other Risk Management Tools at PRP cleanups
STRATEGY 2: STREAMLINE THE PROCESS FOR COMFORT LETTERS AND SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS WITH THIRD PARTIES
RECOMMENDATION 23: Ensure Timely Use of Site-Specific Tools When Needed and Appropriate to Address Liability Concerns at Contaminated Sites
RECOMMENDATION 24: Create and Maintain an OECA Information Repository to Provide Access to Enforcement Information and Tools to Support Third-Party Cleanup and Reuse.
STRATEGY 3: OPTIMIZE TOOLS AND REALIGN INCENTIVES TO ENCOURAGE THIRD-PARTY INVESTMENT
RECOMMENDATION 25: Update EPA’s Position on the Use of Site-Specific Agreements with Third Parties at NPL Sites
RECOMMENDATION 26: Revise EPA’s Model Agreements to Create More Opportunities for Settlement with Third Parties Interested in Cleaning Up and Reusing NPL Sites
RECOMMENDATION 27: Identify Tools for Third Parties Interested in Investment or Other Opportunities Supporting the Cleanup or Reuse of NPL Sites
RECOMMENDATION 28: Provide Greater “Comfort” in Comfort/Status Letters
RECOMMENDATION 29: Revise or Develop New Enforcement Guidance to Support the Cleanup and Reuse of Contaminated Sit
RECOMMENDATION 30: Revise Federal Facility Enforcement Guidance
STRATEGY 4: ADDRESS LIABILITY CONCERNS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
RECOMMENDATION 31: Develop New Local Government Enforcement Guidance to Address Concerns Raised by the Landowner Liability Provisions Potentially Applicable to Local Governments
RECOMMENDATION 32: Develop a Model Comfort/Status Letter and Other Tools to Address the Liability Concerns and Other Barriers Unique to Local Governments
GOAL 4 – PROMOTING REDEVELOPMENT AND COMMUNITY REVITALIZATION
STRATEGY 1 - FACILITATE SITE REDEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT ONGOING INFORMATION SHARING
RECOMMENDATION 33: Focus Redevelopment Efforts on 20 NPL Sites with Redevelopment Potential and Identify 20 Sites with Greatest Potential Reuse
RECOMMENDATION 34: Publicize Site Specific Information to Promote Community Revitalization
RECOMMENDATION 35: Build Capacity of EPA and Its Stakeholders on the Broad Community and Economic Development Context for Site Remediation and Redevelopment
RECOMMENDATION 36: Engage Superfund Communities in Cleanup and Redevelopment
RECOMMENDATION 37: Recognize and Replicate Local Site Redevelopment Successes
STRATEGY 2: UTALIZE REUSE PLANNING TO LAY THE FOUNDATION & SET EXPECTATIONS FOR SITE REDEVELOPMENT
RECOMMENDATION 38: Support Community Visioning, Revitalization, and Redevelopment of Superfund Sites
RECOMMENDATION 39: Engage and Facilitate Public/Private Partnerships to Share Information, Resources, and Work Toward Advancing and Promoting the Revitalization of the Site.
GOAL 5: ENGAGING PARTNERS AND STAKEHOLDERS
STRATEGY 1: KEY STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT
Recommendation 40: Develop a Robust Communications Strategy to Identify and Target Key Stakeholders
Recommendation 41: For Federal Facility Sites, Collaborate with Other Federal Agencies (OFAs) to Solicit Their Views on How EPA Can Better Engage Federal Agencies
Recommendation 42: Use a Federal Advisory Committee to Work with a Broad Array of Stakeholders to Identify Barriers and Opportunities Related to Cleanup and Reuse of Superfund Sites
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