MAC: Mines and Communities

EPA 2004 Year End Shows 40 Superfund Sites Cleaned

Published by MAC on 2004-11-16

EPA 2004 Year End Shows 40 Superfund Sites Cleaned

Environmental News Service (ENS)

November 16, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released an annual summary that shows the agency completed work at 40 Superfund sites in the 12 months ending September 30. In that year, more than 52 percent of the budget for long term, ongoing cleanup work was committed to just nine sites.

As the Superfund program matures, so too does the size, complexity and cost of sites under or ready to begin construction, the agency said in a statement Monday, explaining why so much of its budget was spent on nine sites.

Last year, the EPA conducted 678 ongoing cleanup projects at 428 sites - including EPA lead, Potentially Responsible Party lead and Federal Facility sites.

The agency provided $104 million for new work at 27 projects across the country ­ 18 more new projects than the previous year. The EPA listed 11 new sites and proposed 26 sites to be added to the Superfund List. EPA enforcement actions concluded in fiscal year 2004 will reduce a projected one billion pounds of pollution and require cleanups estimated to total a record $4.8 billion, increases over last year.

"EPA's enforcement strategy is focused on what matters most: achieving real environmental improvements that benefit everyone," said Tom Skinner, EPA acting assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

"We are getting significant, real-world pollution reductions through mechanisms like injunctive relief pushing companies to install more effective pollution controls - and supplemental environmental projects, which improve the environment and public health both nationwide and close to home."

Inspections are up 11 percent, and investigations are up 32 percent over last year, the EPA reports.

But conservation groups say the agency is not doing enough to enforce environmental laws.

The election of President George W. Bush to a second term means that polluters will enjoy four more years of lax enforcement of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) on November 9.

The EIP released a new analysis showing that civil penalties imposed by the EPA against polluters in 2004 hit a 15 year low. The $56.8 million in 2004 civil penalties is the lowest amount since 1990, the first year for which such "big picture" penalty information is readily available, the EIP reported.

To help address funding challenges, in the FY 2004 and FY 2005 budget requests, the Bush administration has asked for a $150 million increase above the FY 2003 budget.

The new Republican controlled Congress will decide on these budget requests. John Walke, director of NRDC's Clean Air Program, predicted that the EPA "likely will cut back its enforcement efforts against large industrial air polluters even more than it did during the first term."

"It is possible that the agency will drop all of its new source review enforcement cases against coal-fired power plants, and weaken consent decrees with refiners that settled previous cases," Walke said. "The agency also likely will block attempts to force large animal feedlots to comply with the Clean Air Act."

Walke predicted that the administration will continue to cut environmental enforcement budgets at the EPA and the Department of Justice.

The good news, the two groups say, is that some state attorneys general and citizen enforcers will step in to tackle the worst cases when the EPA fails to act.

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