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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.

© 2021 Schiff Hardin LLPNational Law Review, Volume VII, Number 142
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About this Author

Amy Antoniolli Environmental Attorney Schiff Hardin
Counsel

Amy Antoniolli is an environmental lawyer with broad experience in administrative and enforcement-related issues. She advises clients on compliance with the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, RCRA, CERCLA, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. She also works on property remediation projects pursued under state and federal cleanup programs. She advises renewable energy clients as well, reviewing siting and operating requirements for wind and waste to energy facilities.

An amiable yet no-nonsense counselor, Amy puts her prior experience to work for her clients. A former adviser...

312-258-5550
Bradley Rochlen, Partner, Schiff Hardin LLP
Partner

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...

312-258-5524
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