EPA head orders streamlining in Superfund cleanup program

EPA head orders streamlining in Superfund cleanup program
© Getty

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittZinke under federal investigation for speech to NHL team: report Overnight Regulation: Senate panel approves driverless car bill | House bill to change joint-employer rule advances | Treasury to withdraw proposed estate tax rule | Feds delaying Obama methane leak rule Overnight Energy: Dems take on Trump's chemical safety pick MORE ordered his staff in a memo on Tuesday to take a handful of actions aimed at streamlining cleanups at contaminated Superfund sites.

Pruitt ordered the changes — like taking quick action at sites with high risks of human exposure to contaminants and focusing resources on sites with the best potential for reuse — based on the recommendations of a task force he convened earlier this year.

The memo sent to high-level staff and regional offices is part of Pruitt’s highly-visible effort to make Superfund a top priority for his time at the EPA.

ADVERTISEMENT

The actions come amid Pruitt’s ongoing work to dismantle nearly every climate change policy at the EPA and remove regulations that he sees as barriers to fossil fuel production and use.

Pruitt has instead emphasized federally-overseen cleanups of the nation’s most contaminated sites as a core responsibility for the EPA.

“There is nothing more core to the agency’s mission than revitalizing contaminated land,” Pruitt said in a statement accompanying his actions and the full report of the internal task force.

“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.”

Pruitt’s order focuses heavily on getting sites off of the National Priority List, the EPA’s tally of the more than 1,300 sites that it has determined warrant federal attention. He then wants the sites to get quickly reused.

In recent months the EPA chief has regularly slammed the Obama administration and previous administrations for the growing size of the list, and has accused them of not taking seriously enough the task of cleaning up sites.

“Superfund sites, we have more today than when President Obama came into office,” he said in May.

The full report from Pruitt’s Superfund task force includes 42 recommendations, like establishing a list of the 10 worst sites across the country for weekly attention from the administrator and seeking alternative financing options for expensive projects.