STATEMENT OF TIMOTHY FIELDS, JR.
March 23, 1999
TIMOTHY FIELDS, JR.
ACTING ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR
OFFICE OF SOLID WASTE AND EMERGENCY RESPONSE
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
SUBCOMMITTEE ON FINANCE
AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
March 23, 1999
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Subcommittee. I am pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you to discuss the Agency's record of accomplishments over the past several years in fundamentally improving the Superfund program.
Before addressing the successes of the current Superfund program, I believe it is important to recognize, from the outset, Superfund's mission. Superfund is an important, and above all, necessary program, dedicated to cleaning up our nation's hazardous waste sites, including those caused by the Federal government, and protecting public health and the environment. EPA has worked closely with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in evaluating the impacts of these sites on public health. Superfund site impacts are real. ATSDR studies show a variety of health effects that are associated with some Superfund sites, including birth defects, cardiac disorders, changes in pulmonary function, impacts on the immune system (the body's natural defense system from disease and sickness), infertility, and increases in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. EPA also works with other federal agencies to assess the significant adverse impacts Superfund sites have had on natural resources and the environment. Together, the efforts of these agencies, working with EPA, provide the basis for targeting cleanups to protect public health and the environment, and show the need for Superfund.
The Superfund program is making significant progress in cleaning up hazardous waste sites and protecting public health and the environment. EPA has significantly changed how the Superfund program operates through three rounds of administrative reforms which have made Superfund a fairer, more effective, and more efficient program. EPA has made considerable progress in cleaning up sites on the National Priorities List (NPL). The Agency has gone from cleaning up 65 sites per year to cleaning up 85 sites per year. As of March 17,1999 more than 89% of the sites on the final NPL are either undergoing cleanup construction (remedial or removal) or are completed:
. 592 Superfund sites have reached construction completion.
. 461 Superfund sites have cleanup construction underway;
. An additional 213 sites have had or are undergoing a removal cleanup action.
By the end of the 106th Congress EPA will have completed construction of all cleanup remedies at approximately 61% of all non-Federal sites currently on the NPL.
In addition, approximately 990 NPL sites have final cleanup plans approved, and approximately 5,600 removal actions have been taken at hazardous waste sites to stabilize dangerous situations and immediately reduce the threat to public health and the environment. More than 30,900 sites have been removed from the Superfund inventory of potentially hazardous waste sites to help promote the economic redevelopment of these properties.
Increasing the Pace of Cleanups
The Superfund program is making significant progress in accelerating the pace of clean up while ensuring protection of public health and the environment. Our analyses clearly show that Superfund cleanup durations have been reduced approximately 20%, or two years on the average. Almost three times as many Superfund sites have had construction completed in the past six years than in all of the prior years of the program combined. In fact, in large part because of our administrative reforms, EPA will have completed construction at more than 85% of the sites on the current NPL by 2005.
The accelerated pace of cleanup is demonstrable. In only two years, FY1997 and FY1998, EPA completed construction at 175 sites -- more than during the entire first 12 years of the program (149 sites).
. Seventy-three percent (128) of the sites are designated enforcement lead, demonstrating the success of both the "enforcement first" policy and the numerous enforcement reforms.
. One hundred and eleven of these sites were added to the NPL during the 1990s. Completion of these sites in less than eight years reflects improvements in the pace of Superfund cleanups.
Private Party Funding
EPA's "Enforcement First" strategy has resulted in responsible parties performing or paying for approximately 70% of long-term cleanups, thereby conserving the Superfund Trust Fund for sites for which there are no viable or liable responsible parties. This approach has saved taxpayers more than $15.5 billion to date -- more than $13 billion in response settlements, and nearly $2.5 billion in cost recovery settlements.
Protecting Human Health and the Environment
The accomplishments in protecting human health and the environment are significant. Environmental indicators show that the Superfund program continues making progress in hazardous waste cleanup, reducing both ecological and human health risks posed by dangerous chemicals in the air, soil, and water. The Superfund program has cleaned over 132 million cubic yards of hazardous soil, solid waste and sediment and over 341 billion gallons of hazardous liquid-based waste, groundwater, and surface water. In addition, the program has supplied over 350,000 people at NPL and non-NPL sites with alternative water supplies in order to protect them from contaminated groundwater and surface water.
Through the commitment of EPA, State, and Tribal site managers, other Federal agencies, private sector representatives, and involved communities, EPA has made Superfund faster, fairer, and more efficient through three rounds of administrative reforms. Several years of stakeholder response indicates that EPA's Superfund Reforms have already addressed the primary areas of the program that they believe needed improvement. EPA remains committed to fully implementing the administrative reforms and refining or improving them where necessary. EPA will be releasing its Annual Report on the status of Administrative Reforms for fiscal year (FY) 1998 within the next several weeks. Below are some of the highlights from the 1998 Annual Report.
Remedy Review Board
EPA's National Remedy Review Board (the Board) is continuing its targeted review of complex and high-cost cleanup plans, prior to final remedy selection, without delaying the overall pace of cleanup. Since the Board's inception in October 1995, it has reviewed a total of 33 site cleanup decisions, resulting in estimated cost savings of approximately $43 million.
Updating Remedy Decisions
In addition to the work of the Board, EPA has achieved great success in updating cleanup decisions made in the early years of the Superfund program to accommodate changing science and technology. In fact, the Updating Remedy Decisions reform is one of EPA's most successful reforms, based on its frequent use and the amount of money saved. After three years of implementation, more than $1 billion in future cost reductions are estimated as a result of the Agency's review and update of remedies at more than 200 sites. It is important to stress that the future cost reductions described above can be achieved without sacrificing the protection of public health, and the current pace of the program.
The Superfund program is selecting remedies that require treatment in fewer instances, focusing on treatment of toxic hot spots. Treatment remedies were included in less than 50% of the Records of Decision completed in fiscal year 1997. Even within the current statutory framework providing for a preference for treatment of waste and permanent solutions to the maximum extent practicable, costs of cleanups are decreasing dramatically because of a number of factors, including: the use of presumptive remedies; the use of reasonably anticipated future land use determinations, which allow cleanups to be tailored to specific sites; the use of a phased approach to defining objectives and methods for ground water cleanups. As a result of these factors, EPA has reduced the cost of cleanup by approximately 20 percent.
Promoting Fairness Through Settlements
EPA has addressed the concerns of stakeholders regarding the fairness of the liability system by increasing the use of the Agency's settlement authorities. EPA has negotiated more than 400 de minimis settlements with over 18,000 small volume contributors (66% of these in the last four years), protecting these parties from expensive private contribution suits. EPA continues to use its settlement authority to remove small volume waste contributors from the liability system, responding to the burden third-party litigation can place on parties that made a very limited contribution to the pollution at a site. EPA continues to step in to prevent the big polluters from dragging untold numbers of the smallest "de micromis" contributors of waste into contribution litigation by publicly offering to any de micromis party $0 (i.e., no-cost) settlements that would provide protection from lawsuits by other PRPs. The real success of this approach is to be measured by the untold number of potential lawsuits that have been discouraged.
Orphan Share Compensation
Since fiscal year 1996, EPA has offered orphan share compensation of over $145 million at 72 sites to responsible parties willing to negotiate long-term cleanup settlements. EPA will continue the process at every eligible site. Through 1998, EPA has collected and placed $399 million in 115 interest bearing special accounts for site specific future work. In addition, over $69 million in interest has accrued in these accounts. This reform ensures that monies recovered in certain settlements are directed to work at a particular site. At a number of sites, this money can make a great difference in making settlements work. In FY98, EPA set aside and then spent more than $40 million of Superfund response money in new settlements for mixed work or mixed funding.
The success of EPA's administrative reforms and the resulting improvements in the Superfund program have fundamentally altered the need for Superfund reauthorization legislation. In the 103rd Congress, the Clinton Administration proposed a five-year reauthorization of Superfund that reflected program needs at that point in time. When Congress did not pass Superfund legislation, EPA implemented a series of reforms administratively. Accordingly, the legislative provisions proposed by the Administration in the 103rd Congress are now very out of date, and the five-year authorization period that would have been provided in that bill has now ended. Many of the provisions in the bill, and in other Superfund reform bills, were designed to fix problems that have been addressed through the Superfund Administrative Reforms. As the result of the progress made in cleaning up NPL sites in recent years, and the program improvements resulting from administrative reforms, there is no longer a need for comprehensive legislation. Comprehensive legislation could actually delay clean ups, create uncertainty and litigation, and undermine the current progress of cleaning up Superfund sites.
Legislation to support the President's Budget is needed to reinstate the Superfund taxes, and provide EPA with access to mandatory spending. As part of Superfund reauthorization, the Administration would support targeted liability relief for qualified parties that builds upon the current success of the Superfund program. The Administration would support provisions that address:
. prospective purchasers of contaminated property
. innocent landowners
. contiguous property owners, and
. small municipal waste generators and transporters
OTHER SUPERFUND PROGRAM ACCOMPLISHMENTS
EPA continues to work with States and Indian tribes as key partners in the cleanup of Superfund hazardous waste sites. EPA is continuing to increase the number of sites where States and Tribes are taking a lead role in assessment and cleanup using the appropriate mechanisms under the current law. With the May 1998 release of the "Plan to Enhance the Role of States and Tribes in the Superfund Program," the Superfund program is expanding opportunities for increased State and tribal involvement in the program. Fourteen pilot projects with States and Tribes have been initiated through this plan.
Community Involvement The Superfund program is committed to involving citizens in the site cleanup process. EPA strives to create an open decision-making process to clean up sites that fully involves the communities, provides the community timely information, and improves the community's understanding of the potential health risks at hazardous waste sites. This is accomplished through outreach efforts, such as holding public meetings and distributing site-specific fact sheets. It has been enhanced through the successful implementation of reforms such as our EPA Regional Ombudsmen who continue to serve as a direct point of contact for stakeholders to address their concerns at Superfund sites, our Internet pages which continue to provide information to our varied stakeholders on issues related to both cleanup and enforcement, as well as our Technical Assistance Grants (TAGs), Community Advisory Groups (CAGs), Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs) and Site-specific Advisory Boards (SSABs).
The TAG program provides eligible community groups with financial assistance to hire technical consultants to assist them in understanding the problems and potential solutions to the contamination problems. EPA has awarded 202 TAGs to various groups since the program's inception in 1988. The Agency plans to publish revisions to the TAG regulation in the Spring of 1999 intended to further simplify the TAG program.
The CAG serves as a public forum for representatives of diverse community interests to present and discuss their needs and concerns related to the Superfund site with Federal, State, Tribal and local government officials. The number of sites with CAGs increased by over 50 percent before the CAG program was officially taken out of the pilot stage. In FY98, 14 new CAGs were created at non-federal facility sites, bringing the total to 47.
Community Involvement at Federal Facilities
The Superfund Federal facilities response program recognizes that meaningful public participation is dependent on the various stakeholder groups having the capacity to participate effectively. The program has entered into partnerships and awarded cooperative agreement grants to State, local, tribal associations, and community based organizations. The grants focus on training for impacted communities, participation of citizens on advisory boards, access to information and implementation of the Federal Facility Environmental Restoration Dialogue Committee (FFERDC) principles. These grants offer the opportunity to leverage precious resources, build trust and reach a wider audience.
The Superfund Federal facilities response program is a strong proponent of involving communities in the restoration decision- making process and recognizes that input from Restoration Advisory Boards (RAB) and Site-Specific Advisory Boards (SSAB) has been essential to making response decisions and, in some cases, reducing costs. Increasing community involvement, Restoration Advisory Board/Site-Specific Advisory Board support (RAB/SSAB) and partnering with states, tribes and other stakeholders is a high priority activity for FFRRO. There are over 300 RABs and 12 SSABs throughout the country.
REVITALIZING AMERICA'S LAND
EPA not only cleans up toxic waste sites through the Superfund program but also helps communities clean up and develop less contaminated brownfields sites. The Brownfields Initiative plays a key role in the Administration's goal of building strong and healthy communities for the 21st century. The Initiative represents a comprehensive approach to empowering States, local governments, communities, and other stakeholders interested in environmental cleanup and economic redevelopment to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields. Brownfields are abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived contamination. Brownfields sites exist in this country, affecting virtually every community in the nation.
The General Accounting Office has estimated that there are over 450,000 brownfields properties across America. The Administration believes strongly that environmental protection and economic progress are inextricably linked. Rather than separate the challenges facing these communities, our brownfields initiative seeks to bring all parties to the table -- and to provide a framework for them to seek common ground on the whole range of challenges: environmental, economic, legal and financial. The EPA brownfields pilot grants are forming the basis for new and more effective partnerships. In many cases, city government environmental specialists are sitting down together with the city's economic development experts for the first time. Others are joining in -- businesses, local residents, community activists.
Brownfields Assessment Pilots
The Brownfields Assessment Pilots form a major component of the Brownfields Initiative since its announcement in a little more than 4 years ago. Since that time, significant environmental results had already been achieved. The Agency has selected 250 assessment pilots funded at up to $200,000 to local communities across the Nation to chart their own course towards revitalization. These pilots are seen as catalysts for change in local communities, and often spur community involvement in local land use decision-making. These pilots, along with targeted state and EPA efforts, resulted in the assessment of 398 brownfields properties, cleanup of 71 properties, redevelopment of 38 properties, and a determination that 273 properties did not need additional cleanup.
Revolving Loan Funds
We are also building on another aspect of our program which began in 1997. This program will award a "second-stage" type of brownfields pilot. Those pilots known as the Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund (BCRLF) Pilots are designed to enable eligible States, cities, towns and counties, Territories, and Indian Tribes to capitalize revolving loan funds to safely cleanup and sustainably reuse brownfields. EPA's goal is to select BCRLF pilots that will serve as models for other communities across the nation. In the 1997 fiscal year, EPA's budget for brownfields included $10 million to capitalize BCRLFs. That early first round of BCRLF pilots is maturing. Twenty-three (23) pilots are now in various stages of development. This year we are planning to make a second round of BCRLF pilot awards. We have determined that these new pilots would benefit from an increased capitalization and we are planning to fund approximately 63 new pilots in fiscal year 1999 at up to $500,000 each. The application deadline recently closed on March 8, 1999, and we will be considering these applications in regional panel and Headquarters evaluations and reviews. The Agency anticipates announcement of the award of these new pilots by June. Pilot applicants are being asked to demonstrate evidence of a need for cleanup funds, ability to manage a revolving loan fund, ability to ensure adequate cleanups, and a commitment to creative leveraging of EPA funds with public-private partnerships and matching funds/in-kind services.
The Brownfields Showcase Communities project is another component of the Brownfields Initiative. It represents a multi-faceted partnership among federal agencies to demonstrate the benefits of coordinated and collaborative activity on brownfields in 16 Brownfields Showcase Communities. The designated Showcase Communities are distributed across the country and vary in size, resources, and community type.
To help local citizens take advantage of the new jobs created by assessment and cleanup of brownfields, EPA began another demonstration pilot program - the Brownfields Job Training and Development Demonstration Pilot program in 1998. Last year we awarded 11 pilots to applicants located within or near one of our assessment pilot communities. Colleges, universities, non-profit training centers, and community job training organizations, as well as states, Tribes and communities were eligible to apply. This year we are planning to award an additional 10 pilots.
The Brownfields Initiative has also generated significant economic benefit for communities across America. By the end of fiscal year 1998, 410 cleanup jobs and 2,110 redevelopment jobs had been created as a result of the program. Pilot communities had already reported a leveraged economic impact of over $1.1 billion.
Recycling Superfund Sites
Contaminated sites may be an economic drain on local economies, can lower property values, and can act as a disincentive for new industries to move into communities. Once cleaned up, many Superfund sites have gone on to new, productive, and economically beneficial reuse. We believe that there are opportunities for many such sites. While some sites are not suitable for unrestricted reuse, many can be "recycled." Many NPL sites are valuable properties -- they reside near waterways, railroads or major transportation routes. They are in parts of town ready for redevelopment.
A logical outgrowth of the Brownfields redevelopment work is an increased emphasis on the reuse of Superfund sites. Recycled Superfund sites may be redeveloped for a variety of uses, including commercial/industrial, recreational, and ecological projects. Sites are being cleaned up across the Nation. Major redevelopment and reuse is occurring.
Successful reuse is being demonstrated at the Industriplex site, in Woburn, Massachusetts. Through a private/public partnership this site will become a regional transportation center with over 200,000 square feet of retail space and potentially over 750,000 square feet of hotel and office space. An open land and wetlands preserve will also be created as a part of the "recycling" of this site. Another example of reuse at Superfund sites is the Anaconda Smelter NPL site, in Anaconda, Montana, which has become the Old Works Golf Course, a world-class Jack Nicklaus golf course. At other Superfund sites, major national corporations, including Netscape, Target stores, Home Depot stores and McDonalds, have established businesses. Sites have been redeveloped into athletic fields, community parks and wetland and habitat preserves as well.
Preliminary analyses indicate that more than 150 sites are in actual or planned reuse, supporting thousands of jobs and generating revenue for States and local communities and creating thousands of acres of new recreational and ecological green space. EPA continues to make strides in spurring the beneficial reuse of Superfund sites.
Barriers to Reuse
At some sites, the potential threat of CERCLA liability may in some circumstances be a barrier to the reuse of contaminated sites. EPA is continuing its efforts to negotiate prospective purchaser agreements and issue comfort/status letters in order to clarify CERCLA liability at sites and facilitate reuse of contaminated properties. Through FY98, EPA has entered into 85 Prospective Purchaser Agreements (PPAs) to facilitate beneficial reuse and has also issued over 250 comfort/status letters in order to clarify Federal Superfund interest in sites.
In the summer and fall of 1998, EPA undertook a survey effort to gather information on the impacts of the PPA process. Preliminary survey data (for PPAs completed through June 1998) indicate that redevelopment projects cover over 1252 acres, or 80% of the property secured through PPAs. EPA regional personnel estimate that nearly 1600 short-term jobs (e.g., construction) and over 1700 permanent jobs have resulted from redevelopment projects associated with PPAs. An estimated $2.6 million in local tax revenue for communities nationwide have resulted from these projects. In addition, EPA regional staff estimate that PPAs have resulted in the purchase of over 1500 acres of contaminated property and have spurred redevelopment of hundreds of thousands of adjacent acres.
Federal Facility Redevelopment
Through EPA's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program over 850 base closure documents have been reviewed at 108 major closing military bases. These BRAC documents articulate the environmental suitability of the property for lease or transfer.
Wurtsmith Air Force Base, located on more than 5,000 acres in northeast Michigan, stood ready for more than 70 years to support strategic bombing operations worldwide. In this capacity, the base managed supplies of aircraft fuel, mechanical cleansers, solvents, and paints, some leaked into the soil and subsequently the groundwater.
The decision to close the base was made in 1993. A Base Closure Team (BCT), consisting of representatives from EPA, the Air Force, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was formed to clean up the site. In an effort to expedite cleanup and minimize cost, an innovative technology, in situ enhanced bioremediation, was implemented to treat the contaminated groundwater. Using this innovative technology, the BCT shaved more than $500,000 and four years off the original cleanup estimate of $1.5 million and 10 years.
To enhance economic redevelopment, the BCT focused its attention on reuse options for the base. Working with the Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency, the BCT enabled approximately 150 low-income families to move into base structures, which replaced substandard housing in six counties. The BCT earned national recognition for this unique reuse plan.
Additional reuse options for the base were determined and implemented. A portion of the base property was leased to companies that brought more than 1,000 jobs to the area, helping to boost the community's economy. Another reuse accomplishment that saved both time and money was the transfer of airport runways for immediate public use to the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport Authority.
Future Scope of Superfund Program
EPA will continue to work with all stakeholders to leverage resources and to assure the successful cleanup of this nation's hazardous waste sites. We will continue to employ administrative reforms to ensure a fair, effective, and efficient Superfund program. The Superfund program is cleaning up 85 sites per year and in fiscal year 1999 plans to exceed the Agency target of 650 construction completions - one year earlier than originally expected. In addition, the Administration recently announced our target of 925 sites "construction completed" by the end of 2002. By 2005, EPA expects to complete construction at 1180 -- 85% of the current NPL. At these construction completion sites, EPA still has the responsibility for post-construction activities such as 5-year reviews and groundwater pump and treat and oversight of PRP long-term operations and maintenance.
EPA/State relationships in the Superfund program have evolved into flexible working partnerships that assign sites responsibilities in a mutually supportive way. EPA has provided the States with nearly $20 million annually for core program support. Where States are interested in taking the lead at NPL sites we provide the funding (roughly $100 million annually, in fiscal years 1997 and 1998) for those activities. Another $30- $40 million annually is provided for site assessment, voluntary cleanup program (VCP) support, and other program activities. Total funding provided to States typically exceeds $150 million per year. A recent GAO study report supports the position that CERCLA and a strong Federal cleanup program are important to the States --"...a number of stakeholders, including state officials, said that a lessening of the Superfund program's more rigorous cleanup requirements or liability standards could negatively affect the State programs. -- "State Cleanup Practices" report 99-39, December 1998 --
States often and regularly ask for EPA assistance when their technical capabilities fall short, their funding is inadequate, enforcement cases too complex, or their ability to respond with staff or contract support is insufficient.
The GAO estimates roughly 3000 sites pose risks serious enough, based on site inspections to be potentially eligible for NPL inclusion and are classified as "awaiting a National Priorities List decisions." Of these the GAO concluded 1,800 of these sites still appear eligible for NPL while the remaining 1,234 are unlikely to become eligible for various reasons.
We do not know now how many more sites will need to be listed on the NPL. We will focus our listing activities on sites when states request a listing, when there are recalcitrant PRPs or when cleanup is needed and its not occurring satisfactorily. We have been using and will continue to use these factors to guide our listing decisions. Based on what we know at this time, we do not expect to list more than 40 sites this year.
Expiration of Tax
The Superfund tax authority expired December 31, 1995, discontinuing further tax collections. The President's fiscal year (FY) 2000 Budget requests reinstatement of all Superfund taxes (including excise taxes on petroleum and chemicals, and a corporate environmental tax). The Trust Fund balance (unappropriated balance) was roughly $2.1 billion at the end of fiscal year 1998. The Trust Fund balance will be approximately $1.3 billion at the end fiscal year 1999.
The Superfund program has been fundamentally improved through administrative reforms and is faster, fairer, and more efficient. The significant progress the Clinton Administration has achieved in protecting public health and the environment through the cleanup of toxic waste sites must not be undermined by the passage of Superfund legislation based upon outdated information and ideas. EPA's administrative reforms, and the resulting Superfund cleanup progress, have eliminated the need for comprehensive Superfund legislation. We look forward to working with Congress to reinstate the Superfund taxes and enact the narrowly targeted Superfund legislation that I described in my testimony that builds upon the success of administrative reforms.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to address the Subcommittee. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or the other Members may have.