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Reauthorization of the Superfund law continues to be a major source of controversy among political leaders and environmental activists. Some seek a major overhaul of the statute, arguing that considerable cleanup still needs to be done. Others oppose major changes, asserting that cleanup is almost complete. One of the most contentious issues in the debate is whether the taxes that once stocked the Superfund Trust Fund need to be reinstated. The answer depends in large part on how much money EPA will need to implement the Superfund program. To inform this discussion, the U.S. Congress asked Resources for the Future (RFF) to estimate the program's future costs. The results of this research are included in Superfund's Future, a book that will become an essential reference for all participants in the debate about one of the nation's most controversial environmental programs.
Under the Superfund program, the EPA places the most seriously contaminated sites on the National Priorities List. EPA may compel site cleanups by parties responsible for contamination, or conduct cleanups itself and have these parties reimburse its costs. The program is funded by a trust fund, which is largely supported by general fund appropriations. This report examines: (1) EPA's enforcement action outcomes and the factors parties consider in reaching these outcomes; (2) any trends in litigation to resolve Superfund liability; and (3) the program's status and costs. The report obtained and analyzed Superfund program data from EPA, as well as data on Superfund litigation from cases filed in U.S. district courts. Includes recommendations. Illustrations.
While more than 2,700 emergency removals of hazardous materials have taken place under Superfund, implementing the long-term cleanup program has been the object of considerable controversy. One of the most contentious issues is whether the liability standards in the law should be revised. The authors analyze the pros and cons associated with the current liability approach, as well as with a variety of alternative strategies.

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