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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.
For more than 100 years, the Coeur d’ Alene River Basin has been known as "The Silver Valley" for being one of the most productive silver, lead, and zinc mining areas in the United States. Over time, high levels of metals (including lead, arsenic, cadmium, and zinc) were discovered in the local environment and elevated blood lead levels were found in children in communities near the metal-refining and smelter complex. In 1983, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed a 21-square mile mining area in northern Idaho as a Superfund site. EPA extended those boundaries in 1998 to include areas throughout the 1500-square mile area Coeur d'Alene River Basin project area. Under Superfund, EPA has developed a plan to clean up the contaminated area that will cost an estimated $359 million over 3 decades--and this effort is only the first step in the cleanup process. Superfund and Mining Megasites: Lessons from Coeur d'Alene River Basin evaluates the issues and concerns that have been raised regarding EPA’s decisions about cleaning up the area. The scientific and technical practices used by EPA to make decisions about human health risks at the Coeur d'Alene River Basin Superfund site are generally sound; however, there are substantial concerns regarding environmental protection decisions, particularly dealing with the effectiveness of long-term plans.
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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