Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, NY

The EPA Superfund Task Force was commissioned by then Administrator Scott Pruitt to develop recommendations for sweeping changes to the Superfund process to provide more clarity and efficiency to the process. The task force issued a long list of recommendations in July 2017 and EPA recently issued a report documenting the status of EPA’s implementation of the task force’s recommendations. EPA reports that it has completed 27 percent of the task force recommendations, but the question is, what has really changed?

Rather than making changes to improve the Superfund process, it appears EPA may be redefining some of the task force recommendations so it can conclude existing programs are sufficient to address the concerns identified by the task force. For example, the task force recommended that EPA provide clarification on when groundwater would need to be restored. The task force recognized there may be sites where it may not be necessary to remediate groundwater. Rather than developing new guidance to address the deficiencies in the existing guidance, EPA has focused on identifying the existing “groundwater policy flexibilities.” The annual report does not indicate that new guidance will be developed or that additional flexibility will be added to existing policies.

What it Means

Is this report just a means of EPA patting itself on the back for policies and practices already in place? It certainly appears to be business as usual.