Round 1In June 1993, EPA's Administrator announced a series of 17 initiatives designed to strengthen the Superfund program within the existing statutory framework. This first round of Superfund Reforms expanded public involvement and aimed to improve the pace, cost, and fairness of the program. Round 1 was considered complete after EPA issued a closeout report in February 1995.
EPA first began promoting administrative changes to improve Superfund in 1989, when the Agency published "A Management Review of the Superfund Program," also known as the "90-Day Study" (see General Reforms Documents). This report compiled facts, observations, and opinions gathered from EPA staff and other Superfund stakeholders. The report focused on common concerns such as enforcement, cleanup response time, and community participation.
In June 1991, EPA convened a 30-day Task Force to explore EPA's options for accelerating the pace of cleanups at Superfund sites, and to determine if EPA was using realistic assumptions to evaluate and manage risk. On October 1, 1991, the Task Force released the "Superfund 30-Day Study Task Force Implementation Plan: Accelerating Cleanups and Evaluating Risk at Superfund Sites," also known as the "30-Day Study." This report announced several initiatives, including changes to the Alternative Remedial Contracts Strategy, specific construction completion goals, and development of the Superfund Accelerated Cleanup Model.
Both of these early studies provided a framework for the 17 initiatives of the Round 1 reforms. The first nine of these initiatives incorporated new ideas that focused on issues of most concern to the Administration, Congress, and the public. The goals of these reforms fell into the following four general areas:
- Increase enforcement fairness and reduce transaction costs.
EPA implemented several reforms designed to increase the fairness of enforcement actions and reduce transaction costs. These included increasing use of allocation tools, facilitating settlements with small volume waste contributors, fostering fairness for site owners, and evaluating mixed funding policy and implementing findings.
During the first two years of the reforms' implementation, EPA completed 86 de minimis settlements with over 5,500 potentially responsible parties (PRPs). The Agency also reached settlements at six mixed-funding pilot sites and issued a report on allocation methods to facilitate future settlements.
- Improve cleanup effectiveness and consistency.
EPA sought to streamline and expedite the cleanup process by standardizing and implementing presumptive remedies. The Agency issued several guidance documents, including reports on presumptive remedies for municipal landfills and volatile organic compounds in soil. These reforms also aimed to develop and test soil screening levels, as EPA issued draft guidance on developing appropriate levels and completed a desk-top pilot study of soil screening levels at 10 sites.
- Expand meaningful public involvement.
The Agency strongly believes that effective community involvement is key to the success of the Superfund program. Therefore, reforms in this area promoted both environmental justice issues and more effective community involvement. To encourage the involvement of multi-cultural and lower-income communities, EPA held a national citizens' meeting to obtain input on the issue, established an Environmental Justice Task Force, and identified 10 sites for environmental justice initiatives. In addition, EPA established community working groups at a number of sites and issued simplified Technical Assistance Grant materials describing how citizens may apply for a community grant.
- Enhance the State and Tribal role in the Superfund program.
Nationwide, there is a large universe of contaminated sites that EPA cannot address on its own. To share the responsibility of site cleanup, EPA encourages States, Territories, and Tribes to remediate sites under their own laws. For example, EPA worked with State associations to develop draft State deferral criteria, initiate deferral pilots in qualified States, and establish a workgroup to address deferral questions and assess early State-lead experiences.
In addition to these nine new reforms, EPA considered several ongoing initiatives that would increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and fairness of the Superfund program. Eight of these initiatives met the criteria for administrative improvements, and EPA adopted them as administrative reforms to promote their development and implementation. These initiatives include:
- Implementing the Superfund Accelerated Cleanup Model (SACM).
SACM is a comprehensive initiative that streamlines and expedites the cleanup process, addresses the worst threats first, and emphasizes early involvement of communities, States, and PRPs. Under this initiative, EPA issued numerous guidance documents and completed several SACM pilots at sites across the country.
- Increasing construction completions
This initiative aimed to triple the number of construction completions at NPL sites, completing 200 by the end of FY93. To reach this goal, EPA (1) worked closely with the Regions to track specific sites, (2) created a workgroup to streamline the cleanup process, and (3) issued the "Superfund Construction Completion Care Package," a compilation of guidance and policy documents. By the end of FY93, EPA had surpassed its initial goal, completing construction at 217 NPL sites.
- During FY99, EPA completed construction at 85 NPL sites which brought the total number of construction completions at the close FY99 to 670. Based on these results, the Agency exceeded the target of 650 construction completion sites during FY99 one year earlier than originally expected.
- Improving contracts management.
Under this reform, EPA focused on two areas of opportunity for improving contractor performance. First, the Agency continued to implement the Superfund Long-Term Contracting Strategy for the next generation of Superfund contracts (see General Reforms Documents). Second, EPA developed and issued guidance to improve cost planning and oversight.
- Promoting "Enforcement First."
Based on recommendations of a 1989 Agency study, EPA's Administrator shifted the emphasis of the Superfund program to "Enforcement First." As a result, the portion of remedial actions conducted by PRPs increased from 30 percent in FY87 to 70 percent in FY92. EPA implemented several initiatives under this reform to increase this trend and encourage faster cleanups of contaminated sites.
- Accelerating cleanup at military bases.
This initiative aimed to accelerate cleanup at closing or realigning bases and ensure that property is more quickly available for productive reuse by communities. Administrative improvements focused on developing guidance, issuing policy, and working closely with the Department of Defense.
- Encouraging the use of innovative cleanup technology.
This reform emphasized the use of public-private partnerships to demonstrate and evaluate innovative hazardous waste treatment technologies. In addition to targeting contamination problems of mutual concern at both public and private sites, EPA evaluated technology databases and aimed to improve the dissemination of treatment technology information to common data repositories.
- Improving compliance monitoring.
Through ongoing oversight of PRP compliance, this program sought to strengthen EPA enforcement of administrative orders on consent, unilateral administrative orders, and consent decrees. This process involved issuing Regional CERCLA compliance monitoring guidance and implementing Regional compliance tracking systems.
- Enhancing the effectiveness of cost recovery.
This initiative focused on developing effective and efficient reports as well as revising the cost recovery targeting process. Reports merged data from the CERCLA Information System (CERCLIS) and the Integrated Financial Management System to present a complete picture of statute of limitation dates and past costs. EPA also proposed the Cost Recovery Rule to clarify cost recovery issues for all stakeholders.
Although the charter for the Superfund Administrative Improvements Task Force ended on September 30, 1994, many efforts that were part of the Round 1 reforms, such as construction completions and de minimis settlements, remain priorities for which the Agency will continue to set targets and goals.
The "Superfund Administrative Improvements Closeout Report, June 23, 1993 to September 30, 1994," issued in February 1995 (see General Reforms Documents), provides further information on Round 1, including a description of the Round 1 initiatives, a summary of achievements and milestones, the benefits of each initiative, and the "lessons learned" by Agency personnel through implementing the initiatives.
Overall, the Agency is pleased with the accomplishments made in improving the Superfund program through the Round 1 initiatives.