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Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results 2011 Fiscal Year

Program Highlights

Fiscal Year 2011 was an exceptional year for the cleanup enforcement program. Responsible parties committed to a record-setting amount to pay for cleaning up contaminated sites and to pay back the Agency for past cleanup work. The Agency’s vigorous pursuit of debtors in bankruptcy, as part of its commitment to ensure that responsible parties, not taxpayers, pay for cleanup, resulted in record-setting settlements. The second phase of the cleanup of PCB-contaminated sediment in the Hudson River began and one of the largest cases ever brought under the Superfund program was resolved when a settlement agreement was reached with Hecla Mining Company. As part of the ongoing effort under EPA’s Integrated Cleanup Initiative (ICI), EPA reaffirmed its commitment to preserving Superfund monies for cleaning up sites where viable responsible parties do not exist. Read more on:

Record setting year for private party commitments to cleanup sites and recover costs

Cleanup commitments from private parties are the highest since enactment of the Superfund statute. In FY 2011 EPA obtained $3 billion in commitments from responsible parties for studying and cleaning up Superfund sites.

Additionally, private parties committed $298 million to reimburse EPA for money spent cleaning up Superfund sites. This is the fifth highest cost recovery total in the history of the Superfund program. (The highest annual total was $371 million in 2009.)

Since 1980, EPA has attained over $36 billion in commitments from responsible parties. Of this amount, over $30.5 has been committed to study and clean up of Superfund sites, and over $5.8 billion represents reimbursements to EPA for money it spent cleaning up Superfund sites

Every year EPA reports the volume of contaminated media (soil and water) addressed (VCMA), which can vary dramatically from year to year due to a number of factors, including the:

  • number of cases,
  • size and number of sites to be cleaned up, and
  • type of cleanups being performed

In FY 2011, the amount of contaminated water and soil being cleaned up by private parties increased from the previous year. The amount of contaminated water addressed increased from 107 million cubic yards to 903 million cubic yards. The increase was largely the result of one case (Aerojet General) which accounted for 80% of the total VCMA for water. The amount of contaminated soil addressed increased from approximately 9 million cubic yards to 31 million cubic yards. One case (International Smelting) accounted for over 25% of the total VCMA for soil.

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Record recoveries for bankruptcy commitments to cleanup and cost recovery

EPA vigorously pursues debtors in bankruptcy as part of its commitment to ensure that responsible parties, not taxpayers, pay for cleanup of hazardous waste and also reimburse the Agency for its past and future cleanup costs. For the past three years the Agency has resolved bankruptcy proceedings with parties that have resulted in settlements in the billions of dollars to clean up sites and reimburse the Agency’s past costs. FY2011 results include two bankruptcy settlements totaling more than $1 billion to the government.

Motors Liquidation Corporation

In October 2010, EPA announced the bankruptcy settlement with Motors Liquidation Corporation (MLC, also known as "Old GM", and formerly known as General Motors Corporation) to set up a $773 million Environmental Response Trust to conduct, manage, and fund cleanup at 89 owned sites across 14 states where MLC has liabilities. The bankruptcy settlement also aids the redevelopment of the appropriate sites in the Trust. In March 2011, an additional seven settlement agreements associated with the MLC bankruptcy were approved to resolved claims at owned and non-owned sites. Under the terms of the settlements, EPA will receive cash, as well as allowed general unsecured claims and work performance collectively exceeding $51 million to settle environmental claims at various sites contaminated with hazardous waste and resolve civil penalties at other facilities. (More information on the MLC bankruptcy settlement.)

Tronox Incorporated

In February 2011, Tronox Incorporated (“Tronox”) agreed to resolve its environmental liabilities with EPA, other federal, state, and local agencies, and the Navajo Nation (collectively, the “Governments”) relating to numerous contaminated sites around the country. The Governments and certain bankruptcy-created trusts receive, among other consideration as part of the settlement, $270 million and 88 percent of Tronox’s interest in a pending fraudulent conveyance litigation. (More information on the Tronox bankruptcy settlement.)

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Phase II of Cleanup begins for Hudson River

In June 2011, EPA Region 2 announced that the dredging of sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) had resumed in the Upper Hudson River, marking the start of the second and final phase of the Hudson River cleanup. During this phase of dredging, General Electric will remove about 2.4 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from a forty-mile section of the Upper Hudson River between Fort Edward and Troy, NY. (More information on the Hudson River PCBs Superfund site.)

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Coeur D’Alene Basin cleanup settlement fosters cooperation for future cleanup

In June 2011, EPA Region 10 announced an agreement was reached with Hecla Mining Company to pay $263.4 million plus interest to the United States, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the state of Idaho to resolve claims stemming from releases of wastes from its mining operations. Settlement funds will be dedicated to restore and clean up natural resources in the Coeur d’Alene Basin. The settlement resolves a cost recovery and natural resource damage action related to the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund Site that was initiated by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe in 1991 and joined by the United States in 1996.

Of the $263.4 million, approximately

  • $180 million will fund response actions throughout the site;
  • $17 million will fund response actions within Operable Unit 1 (the "Populated Areas of the Bunker Hill Box"); and
  • $65.85 million will be paid to the federal, tribal and state natural resource trustees

The settlement also requires Hecla to provide access to and implement proprietary controls on property they own or control within the site. The settlement includes a protocol that will govern the coordination of EPA’s cleanup efforts in the Upper Basin with Hecla’s mining activities in an effort to minimize potential conflicts between cleanup and mining activities. (More information on the Coeur d'Alene Basin and the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund Site.)

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Enforcement activities under the Integrated Cleanup Initiative promote timely cleanups by responsible parties

In 2010, EPA initiated the Integrated Cleanup Initiative (ICI), a three-year strategy to identify and implement improvements to the Agency’s land cleanup programs. The Initiative includes enforcement activities intended to promote the timely clean up of contaminated sites by potentially responsible parties (PRPs), thereby preserving Superfund monies to be used to clean up other sites where viable responsible parties do not exist.

On August 4, 2011, EPA issued a new memorandum titled “Enforcement First for Removal Actions” (PDF) (3pp, 251K, About PDF) The memorandum restates EPA’s longstanding “enforcement first” policy to ensure the continued implementation of this policy, where appropriate and feasible, at removal actions. The memorandum also explains EPA’s policy on completing a preliminary search for PRPs at non-emergency removal sites to ensure the Agency timely identifies responsible parties before using Fund monies to perform the removal action at a site.

In June 2011, EPA issued the memorandum "Options for Responding to Deficient Deliverables from PRPs." (PDF) (7pp, 386K, About PDF) ) The memo discusses EPA options for responding to deficient deliverables submitted by responsible parties, including unilateral EPA modification of deliverables and the assessment of penalties. The memorandum will help to address concerns that deficient deliverables that result in multiple rounds of EPA comments and responsible party resubmission of revised deliverables are an impediment to the timely completion of cleanups.

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