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Working Paper: CERCLA’s Overlooked Cleanup Program: Emergency Response and Removal

Paper Number: 2011-04

Document Date: 05/2011

Author(s): Robin Jenkins, Heather Klemick, Elizabeth Kopits, and Alex Marten

Subject Area(s): Land Use; Air Pollution; Water Pollution

JEL Classification: Structure and Scope of Government: Crisis Management; Renewable Resources and Conservation: Land; Environmental Economics: Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling

Keywords: superfund emergency response and removal Program; ERR; contamination

Abstract: Over the past five decades, the federal government has enacted laws and developed regulations to manage actual and threatened hazardous releases. This paper describes a relatively understudied component of the nation’s response capability – the Superfund Emergency Response and Removal (ERR) Program. Drawing on a new dataset of 113 recent removal actions on 88 sites in the Mid-Atlantic region, we find a great deal of diversity across sites, from the discovery and cause of contamination to the types of risks and the cleanup strategy. The program addresses traditionally studied media such as soil, water, and air contamination, as well as risks from not-yet-released contained contaminants and potential fire or explosion. One of the program’s major strengths is its ability to address this wide range of threats, even though this very heterogeneity complicates research efforts to assess its net benefits. We describe the involvement of potentially responsible parties and EPA expenditures on removal actions. Finally, we consider future challenges for research into the net benefits of the program.

Published: Jenkins, Robin R., Heather Klemick, Elizabeth Kopits, and Alex L. Marten. 2012. "Policy Monitor US Emergency Response and Removal: Superfund’s Overlooked Cleanup Program," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 6(2): 278-297.

This paper is part of the Environmental Economics Working Paper Series.

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