- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
While acknowledging these difficulties, the report criticizes the EPA for not providing Congress with sufficient information to make program funding decisions. For example, the EPA does not provide aggregated information on the status and cost of work at sites not yet cleaned up, or the extent to which it cannot identify viable parties. As a result, it is unclear how much funding for future cleanup activities will have to come from trust fund appropriations rather than from responsible parties, the GAO said.
The report identified Superfund program trends that make it difficult to predict future program costs, the GAO said, mostly because the number of sites added to the National Priority List (NPL) each year has declined; EPA added over 400 sites in fiscal year 1983, but only 20 sites a year, on average, for fiscal years 1998 through 2007.
The types of sites have changed, the report notes, as mining sites, among the most expensive sites to clean up according to the EPA, have been added to the NPL in greater numbers. At the same time, because of limitations in the EPA’s data, the extent to which NPL sites do not have viable parties to assist with cleanups and how this may impact the agency's cost recovery efforts are unclear. Further, while remedial actions have been completed or are underway at most NPL sites, data limitations make it difficult to quantify the amount of work remaining. Also, NPL sites that have not yet been cleaned up may be more complex and expensive. Finally, program appropriations and expenditures are declining, while the EPA’s costs for individual sites are increasing, the GAO said.