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By: Thomas W Church and Robert T Nakamura
The federal Superfund programme for cleaning up America's inactive toxic waste sites is noteworthy not only for its enormous cost (15.2 billion dollars have been authorized so far), but also for its unique design. The legislation that created Superfund provided the Environmental Protection Agency with a diverse set of policy tools. Pre-eminent among them is a civil liability scheme that imposes responsibility for multi-million-dollar cleanups on businesses and governmental units linked - even tangentially - to hazardous waste sites. Armed with this potent policy implement, the agency can order the parties who are legally responsible for the toxic substances at a site to clean it up, with large fines and damages for failure to comply. EPA can also offer conciliatory measures to bring about voluntary, privately funded cleanup; and it can launch a cleanup initially paid for by Superfund and later force the responsible parties to reimburse the government. The authors of this book categorize those three implementation strategies as prosecution, accommodation and public works approaches. They examine six Superfund cleanups, including three regions and both "hard" and "easy" sites, to ask, "what works?". They point out that the choice of strategy involves setting priorities among Superfund's competing objectives: minimizing govenmental costs, reducing legal costs, and speeding up the cleanups. They conclude that the best implementation strategy is one that considers the context of each site and the particular priorities in each case.
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