GAO Report on Superfund Spending

Career/Pro ( )
Wed, 17 Sep 1997 19:19:19 -0700 (PDT)

From: Career/Pro <>

National Journal's Congress Daily - Sept. 17, 1997

Contact: Mike Collins
(202) 225-5735


EPA Using Funds to Churn Out More Lawyers

WASHINGTON (September 16) - Less than 45 percent of the $1.4
billion spent last year by the federal government to clean up toxic
waste sites was actually used for cleanup, according to a General
Accounting Office study released today. Leading Congressional
critics of the troubled Superfund program, meanwhile, accused the
Environmental Protection Agency of squandering millions on
so-called "outreach" programs, including one to teach law students
about "environmental justice."

The GAO report estimates that of $1.4 billion in total Superfund
spending in fiscal year 1996, less than half, or $696 million, was
spent on contractor cleanup work. Of that sum, $82 million was spent
on studies of site contamination and planning, leaving just $614
million -- or 44.2 percent of the total -- for cleanups.

The remaining $704 million was spent on "administration and
support," including rent, utilities and accounting systems for EPA
offices ($294 million or 21 percent of the total $1.4 billion in
Superfund spending); legal expenses for litigation and negotiation
related to the enforcement of Superfund claims ($210 million or 15
percent of the total); and "costs directly related to cleanups," defined
as salaries and travel for EPA employees involved in overseeing
cleanup activities and costs incurred while screening possible future
sites for inclusion in the Superfund "National Priorities List" ($154
million, or 11 percent of the total). Just 4 percent of the total spent on
Superfund -- about $56 million -- went toward research and
development of new methods to clean up toxic wastes.

Leading Congressional Superfund critics blasted the results of the
report, and charged that a separate GAO study shows that the EPA
is wasting millions of dollars on questionable "outreach" and "job
training" programs, including one to train budding lawyers at the
Baltimore Law School on future litigation opportunities in the
Superfund program.

A separate GAO summary of the course says that the curriculum
"emphasizes technical issues of broad relevance across
environmental statutes, highlighting issues relevant to brownfields
and environmental justice." Brownfields, mostly located in urban
areas, are former industrial or commercial sites where
redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental

"Considering that lawyers eat up $210 million a year just from the
federal governmentommittee on Finance and Hazardous Materials."