2017 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2017 12:24:37 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: [CPEO-BIF] My thoughts on EPA's Superfund Task Force Recommendations

While in some areas the Trump regime wants to reverse the environmental policies of the Obama administration, the new administration’s attitude toward Superfund is more nuanced. The Superfund Task Force recommendations released earlier this week seem to have been developed by career professionals under the oversight of the Administrator Pruitt team. The Task Force report does not represent a dramatic departure from past policies.

Below I note potential problems with the recommendations, but I end by identifying reuse as an area where people with differing environmental perspectives can work together.




A lot of the recommendations are good. But they won’t do much good if budget and staffing are cut by a third.

As far as I know, there was no outreach to impacted communities in the development of the recommendations.

The only serious mention of public health is the discussion of sites where human exposure is not under control, but it doesn’t discuss properties that should be on the National Priorities List because of human exposures, but which are not yet listed. These include vapor intrusion sites, which now may qualify due to the recent rule updating the Hazard Ranking system, and sites with emerging contaminants such as PFCs.

National remedy review may provide consistency of policy, but it also can be a tool for overriding the community acceptance criterion – one of the nine remedy-selection criteria in the National Contingency Plan.

The proposal to accelerate deletions from the National Priorities List worries me, because there is no discussion of the long-term management of residual contamination. 

The Task Force recommends, “Design and implement a pilot that utilizes independent third parties to oversee certain actions, such as long-term monitoring.” This is similar to something I’ve proposed, but it doesn’t address how liability might be affected.

On liability, it recommends, “Explore Environmental Liability Transfer (ELT) Approaches and Other Risk Management Tools at PRP cleanups.” Reducing the liability of PRPs might help move projects along, but there needs to be a safety net to ensure that some entity is on the hook if a remedy fails.

The report talks about Sustainable Redevelopment but not Green and Sustainable Remediation.

While it mentions Environmental Justice organizations, there is no discussion of environmental justice.

I’m concerned about the proposal to reduce the indirect costs charged to potentially responsible parties (PRPs, also known as polluters). One of the strengths of Superfund, compared to many state programs, is that EPA often is able to utilize the combined expertise of a complete team. Cutting indirect costs could reduce expert oversight.

The report states “The principles of groundwater restoration are key concepts outlined in CERCLA and the National Contingency Plan (NCP). Developing improved guidance in this area may help facilitate more timely remedy decisions and make use of the flexibilities inherent within the statute and the NCP. Flexibilities include: using a phased approach, considering monitored natural attenuation, determining whether a technical impracticability waiver is warranted, etc.” Technical Impracticability and Monitored Natural Attenuation are sometimes necessary approaches, but they imply less cleanup, not expedited remediation.

The recommendation on Groundwater Classification doesn’t seem to recognize state anti-degradation policies.



The Report, in line with Administrator Pruitt’s public statements, emphasizes reuse. Superfund reuse is an area where activists/local official like myself and Republicans suspicious of environmental regulation can work together. EPA should not ignore its mandate to protect public health and the environment, but sometimes reuse, including the redevelopment of Superfund sites (including off-site areas impacted by Superfund groundwater plumes or vapor migration) can enhance and accelerate environmental protection.

Third-party – that is, non-PRP – property developers often fund and carry out vapor intrusion mitigation during redevelopment, and in some cases they may be able to conduct or fund subsurface cleanup in exchange for more rapid reuse. 

I especially like the final recommendation: “Use a Federal Advisory Committee to Work with a Broad Array of Stakeholders to Identify Barriers and Opportunities Related to Cleanup and Reuse of Superfund Sites.” Beginning with the Federal Facilities Environmental Restoration Dialogue Committee in the early 1990s, I have found that such advisory committees have the potential to come up with win-win solutions to controversial environmental challenges. 

Communities new to Superfund reuse would benefit from the experiences of communities that have been doing it for some time. Mountain View (where I serve as Vice-Mayor) has as much experience as any community in the reuse of Superfund sites. For example, Google is building its new headquarters and planning to build housing above the downgradient Teledyne-Spectra Physics Superfund plume.) Mountain View uses the California Environmental Quality Act, as well as our own permitting policies, to protect public health while encouraging both residential and commercial development. That is, it is possible for economic reuse and the protection of public health to go hand in hand.

Finally, while emphasis on reuse works here in Silicon Valley and other areas where there is a strong demand for property development, it could leave weaker economic areas with toxic messes forever. Those areas should not be forgotten.


On Jul 27, 2017, at 4:55 PM, Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org> wrote:

EPA Announces Superfund Task Force Recommendations

Recommendations to Streamline and Improve the Superfund Program 

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Task Force released their report to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, providing 42 specific and detailed recommendations to streamline and improve the Superfund program.  Administrator Pruitt also signed a directive to leaders across the Agency of 11 specific actions that should be implemented right away, with renewed focus, including identification, within 60 days, of the sites where the risk of human exposure is not fully controlled.
“There is nothing more core to the Agency’s mission than revitalizing contaminated land,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “I commend the team effort of the career and political staff on the Task Force, working together to develop recommendations that are detailed, but also workable – to ensure that we can expedite the protection of human health and the environment around these properties and accelerate the reuse. I look forward to leading this team toward full implementation of these recommendations.”
“Being on this Task Force was a great opportunity to identify legitimate impediments that prevent expeditious cleanup of Superfund Sites and working to address those issues,” said Karen Melvin, EPA Region 3 Director, Hazardous Site Cleanup Division.
Established by Congress in 1980, the Superfund Program governs the investigation and cleanup of the nation’s most complex hazardous waste sites in order to convert those sites into community resources. The National Priorities List (NPL) came into existence in 1983. It includes those sites that are of national priority among the known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States. Each year, sites are listed and delisted based on criteria in EPA’s regulations. As of June 21, 2017, there are 1,336 sites on the NPL, of which 1,179 are privately owned sites and 157 are federal facilities. Sites on the NPL are in various stages of completion and much work still remains. The recommendations of the Superfund Task Force, when implemented, will improve and expedite the process of site remediation and promote reuse.
The Superfund Task Force, chaired by Albert Kelly, senior advisor to the administrator, was commissioned on May 22, 2017, and includes leaders from EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Office of General Counsel, EPA Region 3 (as the lead region for the Superfund program), as well as other offices.
The 42 Superfund Task Force recommendations are organized into five goals:
  • Expediting Cleanup and Remediation;
  • Re-invigorating Responsible Party Cleanup and Reuse;
  • Encouraging Private Investment;
  • Promoting Redevelopment and Community Revitalization; and
  • Engaging Partners and Stakeholders
Each goal in the Task Force report is accompanied by a set of strategies that include specific actions which are planned to commence within twelve months.
A copy of the directive that the Administrator signed today of the 11 specific actions that leaders across the Agency should implement immediately can be found: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/administrator-pruitts-memo-regarding-receipt-superfund-task-force-report-and-next-steps
To view the complete set of Superfund Task Force recommendations, please visit https://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-task-force-recommendations
To view the original release, go to


Lenny Siegel
Executive Director
Center for Public Environmental Oversight
a project of the Pacific Studies Center
P.O. Box 998, Mountain View, CA 94042
Voice/Fax: 650/961-8918 

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Lenny Siegel
Executive Director
Center for Public Environmental Oversight
a project of the Pacific Studies Center
P.O. Box 998, Mountain View, CA 94042
Voice/Fax: 650/961-8918 

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