Superfund: Trends in Federal Funding and Cleanup of EPA’s Nonfederal National Priorities List Sites

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What GAO Found

Annual federal appropriations to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund program generally declined from about $2 billion to about $1.1 billion in constant 2013 dollars from fiscal years 1999 through 2013. EPA expenditures—from these federal appropriations—of site-specific cleanup funds on remedial cleanup activities at nonfederal National Priorities List (NPL) sites declined from about $0.7 billion to about $0.4 billion during the same time period. Remedial cleanup activities include remedial investigations, feasibility studies, and remedial action projects (actions taken to clean up a site). EPA spent the largest amount of cleanup funds in Region 2, which accounted for about 32 percent of cleanup funds spent at nonfederal NPL sites during this 15-year period. The majority of cleanup funds was spent in seven states, with the most funds spent in New Jersey—over $2.0 billion in constant 2013 dollars, or more than 25 percent of cleanup funds.

From fiscal years 1999 through 2013, the total number of nonfederal sites on the NPL annually remained relatively constant, while the number of remedial action project completions and construction completions generally declined. Remedial action project completions generally occur when the physical work is finished and the cleanup objectives of the remedial action project are achieved. Construction completion occurs when all physical construction at a site is complete, all immediate threats have been addressed, and all long-term threats are under control. Multiple remedial action projects may need to be completed before a site reaches construction completion. The total number of nonfederal sites on the NPL increased from 1,054 in fiscal year 1999 to 1,158 in fiscal year 2013, and averaged about 1,100 annually. The number of remedial action project completions at nonfederal NPL sites generally declined by about 37 percent during the 15-year period. Similarly, the number of construction completions at nonfederal NPL sites generally declined by about 84 percent during the same period. The figure below shows the number of completions during this period.

Why GAO Did This Study

Under the Superfund program, EPA places some of the most seriously contaminated sites on the NPL. At the end of fiscal year 2013, nonfederal sites made up about 90 percent of these sites. At these sites, EPA undertakes remedial action projects to permanently and significantly reduce contamination. Remedial action projects can take a considerable amount of time and money, depending on the nature of the contamination and other site-specific factors. In GAO’s 2010 report on cleanup at nonfederal NPL sites, GAO found that EPA’s Superfund program appropriations were generally declining, and limited funding had delayed remedial cleanup activities at some of these sites.

GAO was asked to review the status of the cleanup of nonfederal NPL sites. This report examines, for fiscal years 1999 through 2013, the trends in (1) the annual federal appropriations to the Superfund program and EPA expenditures for remedial cleanup activities at nonfederal sites on the NPL; and (2) the number of nonfederal sites on the NPL, the number of remedial action project completions, and the number of construction completions at nonfederal NPL sites. GAO analyzed Superfund program and expenditure data from fiscal years 1999 through 2013 (most recent year with complete data available), reviewed EPA documents, and interviewed EPA officials.

Webinar: Tools for Smart Science Journalism

Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 1:00pm Central Time
Register at

As journalists, we ignore science not only at our own peril, but at the peril of our readers and viewers. In this Webinar, you’ll learn to how make sense of scientific data and tell stories in ways that connect with your audience. You’ll get techniques and tips to improve your interviewing and reporting skills. You’ll also learn how to lift the veil from front groups to launch investigations based on informed fact-gathering.

What Will I Learn:

  • How to break down jargon for your audience and demystify the science
  • How to identify front groups for organizations that may have a hidden agenda
  • How to cultivate relationships with scientists so they can be reliable sources

Who Should Take this Course:

Journalists who want to better understand how to cover complicated scientific subjects, and educators and students who want to improve their reporting skills.

Proper Materials Storage Fundamental to E-Recycling

Read the full story at Environmental Leader.

Proper storage of materials is a fundamental element of the electronics recycling R2 Standard that is addressed in Provision 9, according to SERI, which manages the R2 recycling standard.

While the material storage requirements of R2:2013 are rooted in basic environmental, health and safety regulations in place in the US, the general principles and intent behind the regulations apply to all responsible recycling facilities, regardless of where they operate.

Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreements Program

Proposals due Feb 12, 2016.
Full RFP

The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (CPS) Cooperative Agreement Program provides funding for eligible applicants for projects that address local environmental and public health issues within an affected community. The CPS Program is designed to help communities understand and address exposure to multiple environmental harms and risks.

The CPS Program requires selected applicants, or recipients, to use the EPA’s Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Model (PDF) (44 pp, 1.5MB) as part of their projects. The model aims to address local environmental and/or public health issues in a collaborative manner with various stakeholders such as communities, industry, academic institutions, and others. Case Studies from the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Program (PDF) (29 pp, 3.6M) highlights some of the success and effective strategies of previous projects.

Eligible applicants: Nonprofit organizations; Federally recognized tribal governments; Native American Organizations (includes Indian groups, cooperatives, partnerships, associations)

The following organizations are ineligible to receive awards but may partner with eligible applicants:

  • Colleges and universities;
  • Hospitals;
  • State and local governments and their entities;
  • Quasi-governmental entities (e.g.,water districts, utilities);
  • National organizations and chapters of the aforementioned organizations;
  • Multi-state organizations; and
  • Non-profit organizations that engage in lobbying activities as defined in Section 3 of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.

Sustainability Leaders as Conveners

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Without genuine executive sponsorship, sustainability is approached as a type of compliance checklist, each item debated until proven business-critical or until a business case shows high ROI. There are certainly easier wins linked to clear business cases, certain energy efficiency and water use projects as examples. However, high-impact initiatives in areas like product development and supply chain often feature business cases that don’t have watertight proof of immediate ROI. As a result, these issues are disputed over months and even years, reinforcing the false narrative that sustainability is a “nice-to-have” but not core to business success.

7 questions that will shape the future of sustainability

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

It’s a challenge for everyone: Where should I focus my effort? What’s worth trying now, and what do I need to prepare for? To answer these questions, you need to be scanning what’s changing in the world.

Here at Forum for the Future, we’re just concluding our annual scanning cycle. Our Futures Centre, based in Singapore, scans what people are talking about, what they are innovating and what is being financed on sustainability solutions.

We feed in our experiences with leading companies around the world. And we take a view — part analysis, part instinct — on what will be more important on sustainable business the next two years.

Here’s our current list, which covers climate change, European turmoil, gender empowerment, manufacturing, citizens and better scaling of innovations. Each trend also includes a question for your business.

What do you think?