08.01.17

Rounds Opening Statement at EPW Subcommittee Hearing

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight, today delivered the following opening remarks at his hearing entitled, “Oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Program.”

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery:

The Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight is meeting today to conduct a hearing entitled “Oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Program.”

Today we will hear testimony from witnesses with extensive involvement in cleaning up Superfund sites. 

Our witnesses will discuss their experiences in working with the EPA, state governments and local communities to cleanup and repurpose these sites, as well as offer suggestions on how cleanups can be completed quicker and more efficiently while best utilizing taxpayer dollars.

Since 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, and Liability Act, or CERCLA, has been a cornerstone of our nation’s hazardous waste management program.

CERCLA, also known as Superfund, was enacted by Congress to give the federal government authority to clean up contaminated and hazardous waste sites and respond to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters.

The program created a trust fund that is dedicated to cleaning up abandoned waste sites and gives the agency the authority to work with potentially responsible parties to facilitate a site cleanup.

 

It also allows for two types of cleanup actions: 

  • short-term removals in emergency instances that require prompt action; and
  • long-term remedial response actions that allow for the permanent reclamation and reuse of the site.

Superfund sites take many forms. They can be abandoned mine lands, manufacturing facilities, military installations or shuttered chemical facilities. 

Common contaminates at these sites include lead, asbestos and dioxin – all of which can pose a great danger to human health and can contaminate soil and groundwater.

They are located in all of the 50 states and several U.S. territories.

These sites pose a risk to human health, the environment, can contaminate the water supply and prevent valuable land from being used to benefit the community.

Created in 1983, the National Priorities List, or NPL, consists of 1,336 sites across the country that are a national priority for cleanups. 

These sites represent those that pose a great risk to human health and the environment.

In addition to these 1,336 sites, there are 53 sites proposed for listing on the NPL. 

393 sites have been successfully cleaned up and deleted from the list.

While the Superfund program has been vital to reclaiming previously contaminated sites, cleanups are often delayed due to a complex bureaucracy and delayed decision-making that can hinder the cleanup process.

These delays result in contaminated sites languishing in communities, at times for decades, while stakeholders and other parties involved in the cleanup determine the best path forward for the site.

These cleanups should not be delayed or halted because of bureaucratic red tape and lingering disagreements among parties. 

When these delays occur, it is the citizens and the local communities that pay the price. 

When contaminated sites are allowed to languish and no progress is made towards a cleanup, the site continues to pose a potential risk to human health, and valuable property that could benefit the community remains unused.

The EPA, under the leadership of Administrator Pruitt, has made cleaning up superfund sites a priority for the agency. 

Earlier this year, Administrator Pruitt established a Superfund Task Force that was tasked with providing recommendations on how the Superfund program can be improved.

Last week, the Task Force released their report which provided 42 recommendations that can commence within one year and are currently within EPA’s existing statutory authority.

These recommendations aim to expedite cleanups and remediation, re-invigorate responsible party cleanups, encourage private investment, promote redevelopment and community revitalization and better engage partners and stakeholders.

On the same day the report was released, Administrator Pruitt issued a memorandum directing the EPA to immediately being implementing 11of these recommendations.

I am encouraged that Administrator Pruitt has made cleaning up these sites a priority and am hopeful that the recommendations provided by the Task Force will result in programmatic improvements that allow for quicker and more efficient cleanups.

The EPA should strive to work in a transparent, cooperative fashion with state and local governments and stakeholders to make certain these sites are effectively cleaned up and can be safely redeveloped for the benefit of the communities in which they are located.

I’d like to thank our witnesses for being here today and I look forward to hearing your testimony.

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