September 19, 2019

September 19, 2019

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September 18, 2019

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September 17, 2019

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EPA Takes Back Decision-Making Authority for Most Costly Superfund Cleanups

In a break with long-standing policy, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has taken back authority to approve remedies costing $50 million or more at Superfund sites effective immediately. According to the delegation of authority memo issued on May 9, 2017, the purpose of these revisions is to promote accountability and consistency in the remedy selection process and encourage speedier remediation and revitalization of contaminated sites.

Superfund is a program established under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances. The lead agency has primary responsibility for coordinating a cleanup, and is often a state environmental protection agency or regional office. Under this revised delegation of authority, however, when the remedy or remedial alternative selected in the Record of Decision (ROD) is estimated to cost more than $50 million, lead agencies will have to involve the administrator’s office in developing and evaluating remedy alternatives and the selection of the remedy.

Pruitt’s memo appears to be aimed at sediment and mining “mega-sites” with complex and unique contaminants that can be extremely costly and continue to be a challenge for the Superfund program. The stated reason for this change—to encourage expedited remediation and revitalization of contaminated sites—is consistent with the Trump Administration’s stated goal of streamlining development projects at environmentally impacted property. This policy, however, will likely add delay into remedy approvals and lead to an altered relationship between potentially responsible parties and the regional offices of EPA in developing remedies.

© 2019 Schiff Hardin LLP


About this Author

Amy Antoniolli, environmental attorney, Schiff Hardin, permit appeals legal counsel, environment regulations lawyer, Illinois Pollution Control law
Staff Attorney

Amy Antoniolli concentrates her practice on environmental matters, advising clients on compliance with relevant laws and regulations and representing them in permit appeals, requests for relief from regulations and in rulemakings.

Amy’s prior experience as Assistant Attorney for the Illinois Pollution Control Board and as Assistant Counsel to the Illinois House of Representatives informs her work at Schiff Hardin and regularly benefits her clients.

Having advised the Board Members of the Illinois Pollution Control Board...

Bradley Rochlen, Partner, Schiff Hardin LLP

Bradley (Brad) S. Rochlen is a litigator who represents corporate, real estate and power generation companies, including public utilities, in complex environmental disputes. Mr. Rochlen assists clients in prosecuting and defending hazardous waste control (Superfund) cases, RCRA cases and private cost recovery cases at some of the largest contaminated sites in the country. He also has significant experience in Clean Water Act cases and toxic tort disputes.

Merging sound legal theories with an in-depth technical understanding, Mr. Rochlen designs creative approaches to case strategy in all areas, from one-on-one negotiations to alternative dispute resolution, through courtroom litigation.