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Release Date: 06/04/96
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Tuesday, June 4, 1996


EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner today issued four major Superfund policies that deliver on the Clinton Administration's commitment to make cleanup of toxic waste sites faster, fairer, and more efficient.

"These steps demonstrate the Clinton Administration's commitment to cleaning up toxic waste sites and protecting the health of the one in four Americans who live near them," Browner said. "With these reforms, we are following through on our efforts to fundamentally improve the Superfund program by limiting the costly role of lawyers and increasing community participation.

"This Administration has taken every possible measure within our power to transform Superfund into a common-sense program that achieves cost-effective results. However, we still need reforms that require reauthorization of the law by Congress. The Clinton Administration remains committed to working with Congress in a good-faith, bipartisan approach to achieve those reforms," Browner added.

The four actions taken by Browner are:

    1. Appointment of an ombudsman in all 10 EPA regions to make sure the program is significantly more responsive to the needs and goals of real communities.
    2. Offering $50 million in past and other costs this year to speed up cleanups by assuring that financially insolvent polluters are no longer potential obstacles to settlement agreements.
    3. Encouraging faster settlements among polluters by setting up interest-bearing accounts whose earnings can help contribute to meeting total cleanups costs.
    4. Increasing the number of small businesses and municipalities no longer liable for cleanup costs. The establishment of an ombudsman position in each EPA region will help resolve Superfund issues that fall through the cracks in the current system. Through these ombudsmen, who will work closely with the EPA headquarters ombudsman, the public will have access to an EPA employee who will be able to cut through red tape to investigate complaints and arrange meetings with appropriate staff to try to resolve problems. The ombudsmen will have the authority to cut across bureaucratic lines to get answers and resolve problems quickly.

    Under a new "orphan share compensation" policy, EPA will help fund a portion of the Superfund cleanup costs attributable to parties that are now financially insolvent. This "orphan share" is currently paid by the financially solvent responsible parties at a Superfund

    site. Under the Superfund law's strict, joint and several liability provisions, a private party could be held liable for the full cost of the cleanup at a site including those costs associated with contamination caused by insolvent parties. Under this new policy, as much as 100 percent of the "orphan share" will be covered by EPA at Superfund sites where financially capable responsible parties agree to perform the cleanup. By covering the orphan share, EPA will speed up cleanups by making it more attractive for viable responsible parties to enter into cleanup agreements. EPA will offer over $50 million of past costs and future oversight costs to compensate for a portion of the orphan share.

    EPA also has reached agreement with the Office of Management and Budget and the Treasury Department on establishing "special interest bearing accounts" for deposit of settlement funds. EPA now will have the ability to retain in special interest bearing accounts settlement funds to clean up specific Superfund sites. This change will be a further incentive for potentially responsible parties to settle with EPA since interest earned on settlement funds will now be applied for the cleanup of a specific site. Increased use of these special accounts also will increase private party settlements allowing Trust Fund monies to be used for cleanups at sites where responsible parties are financially insolvent or where no responsible parties can be found. EPA has issued memoranda to its 10 regional offices encouraging the use of special accounts.

    Another policy announced today increases the number of very small volume waste contributors eligible for "de micromis" settlements. The new policy expands EPA's 1993 de micromis policy by doubling the threshold amount of waste a party contributed to a Superfund site without being held liable for cleanup costs. The new threshold levels are 0.2 percent for municipal solid waste at a site or .002 percent or the equivalent of two drums of materials containing hazardous substances. The new policy relieves these small contributors of having to pay for a portion of cleanup at a site and protects these small volume contributors from "third-party" suits from larger waste contributors.

    "For these small parties, many of which are municipalities and small businesses, the cost of legal and other representation services would likely exceed their proportional share of costs to clean up the site," Browner said. "Fairness and common sense dictate that these very small contributors should not be subject to the often complex and lengthy settlement process."

    Copies of these policies can be obtained through the RCRA/Superfund hotline by calling 800-424-9346 or locally at 703-412-9810. The information can also be accessed through the Internet at

    R-79 ###