More Settlement Authority and EPA Controls Could Increase Cost Recovery Gao ID: RCED-91-144 July 18, 1991

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Superfund settlement process, focusing on: (1) EPA success in obtaining cleanups of hazardous waste sites and recovering Superfund administration costs; (2) the adequacy of EPA controls over its settlement process; and (3) additional opportunities for EPA to improve its recovery of Superfund costs.

GAO found that: (1) since fiscal year (FY) 1987, the number and value of EPA settlements with responsible parties increased, but EPA lacked performance measures to show the extent to which settlements achieved program goals; (2) its survey of FY 1989 settlements indicated that EPA succeeded in getting potentially responsible parties (PRP) to perform 98 percent of the identified cleanup work valued at $494 million and to pay 59 percent of the $197 million in Superfund costs for sites covered by those settlements; (3) EPA FY 1989 settlements did not obtain or recover $89 million, or about 13 percent, of the total amount required or expended for cleanups, including related Superfund costs; (4) EPA performance measures did not provide a settlement evaluation context or an accountability basis; (5) its review of 19 settlements indicated that EPA generally failed to meet the required documentation standard, since EPA did not require its regions to document the settlement process; (6) EPA required a written postsettlement analysis to justify only some settlements and did not require those analyses to compare settlement outcomes to initial expectations or to state the EPA rationale for accepting less than it anticipated; (7) the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) restricted EPA from assessing responsible parties interest charges on its program costs; (8) EPA could increase the costs it seeks from responsible parties, and in turn, its cost recoveries if it had the authority to charge interest at commercial lending rates; and (9) EPA could have accrued an additional $25 million in interest by using a commercial lending rate on its FY 1989 expenditures.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Team: Phone:

The Justia Government Accountability Office site republishes public reports retrieved from the U.S. GAO These reports should not be considered official, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Justia.