The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, commonly known as "Superfund," was established to clean up hazardous waste sites that threaten human health or the environment. The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA), signed on October 17, 1986, amended CERCLA. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the primary responsibility for managing cleanup and enforcement activities under Superfund.The passage of SARA:
- Reauthorized CERCLA for 5 years. A three-year extension to SARA was signed on November 7, 1990, and authorized CERCLA until 1994. (The Program was extended by Congress and reauthorization of the Program is currently being debated.)
- Strengthened and expanded the cleanup program.
- Increased the size of the Hazardous Substance Response Trust Fund. CERCLA authorized $1.6 billion for cleanup during the first 5 years. SARA provides for $8.5 billion during the second 5 years.
- Established a new Trust Fund to clean up leaking underground petroleum storage tanks.
Under Section 104 of CERCLA, EPA can act "whenever (a) any hazardous substance is released or there is a substantial threat of such a release into the environment, or (b) there is a release or substantial threat of release into the environment of any pollutant or contaminant that may present an imminent and substantial danger to the public health or welfare..." CERCLA broadly defines two types of responses:
- Short-term removal actions involving spills or other emergencies requiring immediate response.
- Longer-term remedial responses aimed at providing more permanent solutions to problems at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.
EPA's Office of Superfund Remediation Technology Innovation (OSRTI) places a high priority on full implementation of the Superfund program. The task is challenging, requiring a working relationship between the Federal Government and the States, as well as a system of accountability to industry and the American taxpayer for the efficient and effective management of the two trust funds. The private sector has a key role to play in the implementation of CERCLA because much of the work will be performed by private contractors.