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Climate Change Adaptation

Background Information

EPA’s first policy statement (PDF) (3 pp, 1 MB, About PDF) on climate change adaptation, which was issued in June 2011, recognized that climate change can pose significant challenges to the Agency's ability to fulfill its mission of protecting human health and the environment. It called for the Agency to develop a plan for addressing future climate changes and to incorporate climate change considerations into EPA's activities. The policy also required every national-program and regional office to develop an implementation plan providing details on how it will carry out the work outlined in an Agency-wide plan.

In February 2013, EPA released its Agency-wide draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan (PDF) (55 pp, 767 KB, About PDF) for public comment. EPA's Superfund Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan is integrated in the June 2013 draft Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response Climate Change Adaptation Implementation Plan (PDF) (41 pp, 1.2 MB, About PDF).

The Agency's focus on climate adaptation is part of the larger federal effort to increase the nation's adaptive capacity and promote a healthy and prosperous nation that is resilient to a changing climate. In June 2013, the President announced his plan (PDF) (21 pp, 318 KB, About PDF) to cut carbon pollution and prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change. Broader federal actions to enhance climate preparedness and resilience in the United States are outlined in the November 2013, Executive Order 13653, Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change (PDF) (8 pp, 333 KB, About PDF).

Climate Change Impacts on the Superfund Program

Remedies to address contaminated sites may be vulnerable to changes in weather and climate, which are now understood better than in the past. Remediation vulnerabilities may include flooding events, chronic inundation, extreme storms, large snowfalls, wild fires, drought, extreme heat, or landslides. EPA conducted a screening analysis to evaluate the extent to which the vulnerabilities may impact soil, sediment, or groundwater remedies involving technologies such as soil vapor extraction, bioremediation, permeable reactive barriers, and pump-and-treat systems or involving strategies such as monitored natural attenuation or ex situ containment. The analysis included plotting Superfund sites located near or within 100-year and 500-year floodplains and of Superfund sites situated within 1-meter mean sea level rise.

Climate Change Adaptation within the Superfund Program

Planning Tools

Climate Change Adaptation in the Superfund Program: Groundwater Remediation Systems (PDF) (8 pp, 853 KB, About PDF) is the first in a series of fact sheets designed to help project managers and other cleanup stakeholders identify, prioritize, and implement site-specific measures for increasing remedy resilience to climate change impacts.

EPA's Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, which manages the Superfund Program, is collaborating with other national program offices to implement the climate change adaptation plan proposed by the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. The Superfund Program's Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan involves the following key actions:

  1. Develop criteria to identify the types of remedies for which performance may be impacted by climate change
  2. Develop a protocol for evaluating and ensuring remedy protectiveness on a site-specific basis
  3. Produce adaptation fact sheets specific to the types of remediation systems most likely to be impacted by climate change, to help project decision-makers identify potential system vulnerabilities and adaptation measures
  4. Identify existing Superfund Program processes (such as remedial investigations/feasibility studies, records of decision, remedial designs/remedial actions, and five-year reviews) in which climate change adaptation measures may be integrated to ensure continuing protectiveness of current and future remedies
  5. Develop and implement in-person and Web-based training to help EPA regional staff, cleanup contractors, and other stakeholders plan and implement remedies that are resilient to weather and climate changes
  6. Exchange updated information and learned lessons with EPA's regional offices to foster application of climate change science as a standard EPA business practice.

Efforts to safeguard Superfund site remedies by adapting them to address climate change vulnerabilities are coupled with climate change mitigative actions to lower greenhouse gas emission from remediation projects. To this end, the Superfund Program continues to implement its 2010 Superfund Green Remediation Strategy (PDF) (32 pp, 254K, About PDF) while rolling out this new Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan.

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