EPA Superfund cleanup costs outstrip funding

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The cost of cleaning up hazardous sites is increasing even as Superfund dollars are running out.

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated the cost of cleanup was increasing beyond the current funding needed for Superfund sites. In the past decade, EPA allocated $243 million per year for Superfund cleanup. It estimates $335 million to $681 million per year will be needed for future cleanup.

The EPA attempts to bill the company responsible for contamination. Sometimes, the company no longer exists or is bankrupt, so the EPA pays for cleanup out of the Superfund trust, previously funded by a tax on petroleum products. The tax was discontinued in 1995.

Companies that do pay for the cleanup do not have to report to the EPA how much is spent, further complicating efforts to track costs of Superfund site cleanups.

The Government Accountability Office has criticized EPA’s lack of data on Superfund cleanup costs, saying the information is inconsistent and unreliable.

“We recommended, among other things, that EPA assess and improve the data it collects on the status and cost of cleanups,” the GAO report said.

The Center reported in 2007 on the vulnerability of Superfund projects due to the elimination of the petroleum product tax.

FAST FACT: One in four Americans lives within three miles of a contaminated site posing serious risks to human health and the environment, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities.

NATIONAL SECURITY

  • Senator Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., is proposing a bill to make it a felony for a government employee to violate a nondisclosure agreement, no matter what kind of information is leaked. Current law applies a criminal penalty to leaks if the information includes codes, cryptography, identities of secret agents, nuclear weapon design, or communication intelligence. (FAS)

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