Superfund Reforms

[EPA press release - May 25, 1995]

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced administrative reforms to its Superfund program that will spur faster, fairer and more efficient cleanups and redevelopment of abandoned industrial sites across the United States. The reforms ease liability barriers to redevelopment, provide for cleanups based on future land use, and offer fair and efficient options to states, tribes, and small businesses involved in cleanup decisions.

In February EPA announced its intention to make administrative reforms in the Superfund program. Today's announcement marks the implementation of those reforms.

Citing the Clinton Administration's "continued commitment to making Supefund faster, fairer and more efficient." EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner said, "Even with these reforms in place, we still need legislative reform of the Superfund law to ensure that it makes economic and environmental sense for our cities, small businesses, and communities."

The reforms include:

  • Two new enforcement policies that reduce the liability barriers faced by prospective purchasers of certain contaminated properties, in order to provide an incentive to return abandoned sites to productive use;

  • A new directive ensuring that EPA will consider the future uses of contaminated land in planning Superfund cleanups, in order to focus on common-sense, cost-effective remedies that take into account communities' priorities for the land; and

  • Reforms that will make it easier to speed up cleanups, allocate cleanup costs fairly, expedite settlements for minor contributors to contamination, and increase use of dispute resolution to speed settlements.

In addition to making Superfund more efficient and effective, the new policies are expected to help speed the redevelopment of abandoned, contaminated industrial sites--called "brownfields"--in cities across the United States, thus encouraging redevelopment in urban centers.

The Prospective Purchaser Guidance, signed by Steve Herman, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, expands the situations where EPA will remove liability barriers to redevelopment of contaminated properties. These changes will provide assurance to future landowners. EPA believes this action will make it easier to redevelop former industrial properties. In turn, current owners of contaminated properties will have an economic incentive to clean up these sites and get them back into productive use.

A second guidance will assure lenders, owners and prospective purchasers of properties containing groundwater contamination by sources outside their property that EPAwill not sue them to recover cleanup costs. EPA will also consider settlements to protect these property owners from third-party lawsuits.

The Land Use Directive, signed by Elliott Laws, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, ensures that future land use decisions will be considered when assessing the risks, developing cleanup plans and choosing the most appropriate remedy for Superfund sites. The Land Use Directive will ensure that EPA will focus on practical and cost-effective cleanups that take into account communities' plans for the redevelopment of sites.

Additional Superfund administrative reform efforts announced today include: the State Deferral Policy, which is an administrative mechanism to enable states and tribes under their own laws to respond at sites which EPA would otherwise not soon address; the Allocation Pilots, which test a fundamentally different approach to the allocation of Superfund costs through a neutral third party assigning shares of costs to Potentially Responsible Parties based on each party's "fair share"; expedited settlements which resolve the liability of minor contributors and consider their ability to pay; and increased use of alternative dispute resolution to speed up Superfund settlements.

The state deferral program provides an administrative framework for EPA, states and tribes to determine the most appropriate, effective and efficient means to address more sites more quickly than EPA alone could address them.