This report presents the analysis, conclusions, and recommendations of the Federal Facilities Policy Group (FFPG), convened by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to review the current status and future course of environmental response and restoration at Federal facilities. Specifically, this report identifies areas of management and regulatory reform essential to protect public health and restore the environment as well as assure effective, efficient use of resources as the effort to clean-up Federal facilities proceeds.
Lack of sensitivity to environmental protection by some agencies was also a problem on Federal lands and at Federal facilities around the country. For some agencies, the sense of urgency to develop a stockpile of nuclear weapons and maintain a prepared military force during the Cold War, coupled with the secrecy and compartmentalization of information required for nuclear technology security, resulted in long delays before significant environmental problems were understood or addressed. Consequently, the extent of existing contamination on Federal land is only now being fully characterized and the enormity of the cleanup challenge adequately recognized.
Initial studies conducted at Federal agencies document the enormous challenge presented by Federal facilities contaminated with radioactive or hazardous waste. Much of the radioactive waste is a by-product of the Department of Energy's (DOE) nuclear weapons research, production and testing. The Department of Defense's (DOD) operations have also generated hazardous waste contamination similar to that found in the industrial and commercial sectors. Thousands of abandoned mines and other contaminated sites are found on public land managed by the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). Chemical and radiological substances at Federal facilities have contaminated air, top soil, sediments, surface water, and groundwater, as well as vegetation and wildlife, thereby posing significant threats to human health and safety and the environment.
B. Addressing Real Risks to Real
Federal leadership in meeting the cleanup challenge and making appropriate
cleanup decisions for the diverse portfolio of sites under Federal management is a
legal and economic imperative. Some of these hazardous waste sites present a risk to
public health and the environment for communities serving as hosts to essential
government missions, particularly for and weapons production and some defense
operations. The Clinton Administration recognizes a moral commitment to these
communities, and to current and future generations, to address the risks posed by
hazardous substances at these facilities. Successive Congresses have translated this
imperative into a legal mandate, reflected in a host of specific environmental
compliance obligations imposed by statute on Federal agencies. The economic
significance of these obligations is increasing, because efficient and effective
cleanup decisions at these facilities are necessary to meet targets for reduced
Federal spending and to facilitate the environmental and economic redevelopment and
beneficial reuse of Federal facilities. This is especially important as the closure of DOD
bases and the overall reduction in the number of Federal facilities renders large
numbers of facilities available for economic redevelopment or transfer to other Federal
Although there is consensus on the obligation to address contamination at Federal facility sites, there is insufficient agreement on the scope of the obligation or the appropriate standards to guide decisions about remediation, restoration, and future use of Federal agency sites. Indeed, the magnitude of the challenges presented by the commitment to address the numerous, diverse, and complex environmental problems at Federal facilities underscores the importance of making the best possible judgments concerning risk, priority, cost, and cleanup levels. Yet, even as our knowledge about sites has improved, there remains considerable debate and little consensus concerning the precise nature and severity of risks presented at certain Federal facility sites, the standards that should apply in determining cleanup levels, the priority and pace of cleaning up the portfolios of sites managed by each agency, and the role of costs and benefits in ascertaining and constraining cleanup strategies.
C. The History of Federal Facility Cleanup.
The 1980s, the first full decade of effort by Federal agencies to address contamination
at their facilities, yielded little actual cleanup until the end of the decade. The Cold War
secrecy that shrouded a number of Federal facilities hindered rapid assessment of the environmental conditions at those sites. At some agencies, environmental protection
and restoration were not typically given priority among other competing agency missions.
Further, the lack of a separate environmental function and expertise within agencies,
or of a clear mandate for environmental awareness in the performance of mission
activities, hampered commitment and effort during these years. On occasion, some
agencies bridged this gap with a heavy reliance on contractors, with losses in
accountability and failure to control costs.
The Lack of Knowledge: During the early years of Federal facility cleanup, knowledge limitations significantly impeded cleanup progress. Initially, little was known about the extent or range of the potential sources of existing contamination. To tackle this challenge, agencies had to first characterize each site, a process which involved testing to determine the presence, type, quantity, and location of contaminants; subsequent evaluation of how those contaminants move and change after entering the environment; and finally, a prediction of the direction and rate of contaminant migration. Characterization has proven to be time-consuming, costly, technically difficult, and fraught with uncertainty, but essential for sound risk assessment and effective, efficient cleanup decisions. At large, complex facilities like those of DOE, comprehensive, integrated assessments have been especially difficult to accomplish. Moreover, just determining how far to pursue characterization at a particular facility or site has not been easy. The value of additional information has had to be weighed against its real costs, including delay in moving to cleanup and diversion of resources away from cleanup.
Agencies often have had to undertake these tasks without fundamental scientific knowledge of certain contaminants or combinations of contaminants. Such knowledge, however, remains essential to the development of sound science-based protective standards for the off-site public, for on-site workers, and for the environment. Knowledge regarding the effects of hazardous and toxic substances and materials on human health and other biological receptors has been and remains incomplete. Specifically, a greater scientific understanding about the toxicity, health effects, and interaction of environmental contaminants known to exist at Federal facilities is needed. For example, sediments in lakes and streams surrounding DOE's Oak Ridge Reservation contain both radionuclides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The biological consequences of such multiple exposures may be very different from the effects of individual contaminants. Once inside an organism, environmental contaminants can accumulate, interact by impinging on the same organ system, or alter the metabolism of other contaminants. The need for more complete information on the biological impact of environmental contaminants  is well-documented, yet answers to some of these questions may be unavailable for many years.
A Lack of Cost-Effective Technology: During much of the history of Federal facilities cleanup, effective and proven technologies for certain cleanups have not existed, and the cost of others has been prohibitive. This has been particularly true for DOE radioactive waste cleanup. Even characterization technologies, which are used to determine the types of contaminants present at many sites, have frequently been either ineffective or too costly. Still, new technologies often present the best hope for ensuring a real reduction in risk to the environment and improved worker and public safety. DOE has identified five such areas where new technological solutions are most needed to facilitate cleanup: ground water contamination; plutonium in soil; silos with uranium processing residues; single-shell, high-level waste tanks; and buried transuranic waste. In addition, improvements in material removal, handling and processing technologies are needed to enhance safety and reduce costs. Federal agencies have encouraged the development of promising technologies, but some will not be available for many years. Consequently, the Federal government's ability to accurately gauge the cleanup cost, timetable, and associated risks has been significantly limited in the past and even today is uncertain.
The Problem of Federal/Public Communication: The public demand for information on existing contamination and for involvement in decisions addressing these problems has significantly increased. Until the past few years, however, the role of locally affected populations in cleanup decisions was extremely limited. The remoteness of certain Federal facilities, the secrecy surrounding national security activities, and management cultures oriented toward other missions all contributed to the absence of systematic efforts to address the concerns and interests of local stakeholders. Secrecy that was once critical for the security mission at some agencies persisted long after agency missions had changed, which impeded public involvement and undermined public confidence.
This new leverage, under CERCLA and later the FFCA, to compel cleanup contributed greatly to the development of a cleanup effort commensurate with the range and number of environmental problems for which Federal agencies are responsible. Aggressive early efforts to develop IAGs, however, meant that many cleanup commitments were negotiated without adequate information about site conditions and cleanup requirements, and before sites had been assessed, cleanup approaches and requirements selected, future land use decided, technological feasibility evaluated, or the relative priorities across different sites and facilities compared. Consequently, performance milestones set by the IAGs often proved unachievable. These milestones also assumed that funding levels would be sufficient to meet projected cleanup requirements on a ambitious schedule. The schedules did not anticipate funding constraints inherent in the budget process. Thus, the IAGs and the budget process at times established potentially conflicting sets of mandates and requirements, all of which may be enforced by Federal and State regulators with the threat of injunctive relief, civil penalties, and criminal penalties against Federal officials.
D. Renewing the Commitment to Cleanup.
These early difficulties, however, do not warrant a turning away from our
Federal responsibilities. The Federal government has a legally-recognized
obligation to clean up the legacy of environmental contamination caused by
Federal operations across the United States.
These basic goals have not yet been attained, because, as has been found true for hazardous waste cleanup in the private sector, cleaning up Federal facilities has proven to be a larger, more complex, and more expensive challenge than most people first envisioned. These issues have been the focus of intense scrutiny at a time of widespread public distrust of government and mounting pressures to reduce government spending. This requires Federal agencies responsible for hazardous waste cleanup to refine their strategies for attaining the basic goal and adopt attainment strategies that reflect current resource and knowledge constraints. These strategies must set priorities and allocate resources in a manner and through a process that leads to greater efficiency and greater public acceptance. The process must recognize that the pace and level of cleanup depend upon appropriations from Congress and that there will be diminishing fiscal flexibility. Accordingly, the development and implementation of these strategies must ensure better use of existing funds. The process must foster more cost-effective cleanup choices, greater attention to cost, better management, and decisional criteria to ensure that the benefits of particular cleanup choices exceed costs.
At the same time, we must recognize that each agency has made significant commitments to the communities in which they are located. Any processes for priority-setting and revising cleanup decisions or timetables must be transparent, with substantial opportunities for meaningful participation by affected communities. These processes must take into account other significant Federal policies relevant to environmental protection, including those promoting economic growth, beneficial re-use of closing Federal facilities, and environmental justice.
A. Survey of Agency Challenges.
The first category of sites, the nuclear weapons complex, is comprised of
facilities that developed, produced, and tested nuclear weapons. These sites
are owned and operated by DOE and represent the most complex, and potentially the
most expensive, remediation challenge. Long shielded from regulatory oversight, they
contain radiological and mixed (radiological/chemical/hazardous) wastes that present
unique technological and practical impediments to prompt remediation and restoration.
The second category is comprised of those sites where Federal operations have generated environmental problems similar to those found in the private sector. For example, the releases of hazardous substances associated with solvents and fuels from vehicle or airport operations at DOD and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) facilities are comparable to those found at similar operations in the private sector. Only ordnance disposal areas, a very small percentage of DOD contamination, represent a unique cleanup challenge. The industrial contamination sites in this category, while the most numerous, are consequently the sites for which knowledge about risk and remedial technology is the most developed and understood.
The third category of sites are on lands administered by Federal agencies and at which either governmental or private parties have disposed of hazardous substances or are otherwise responsible for contamination. Contamination at these sites has a range of causes, from hazardous substances leaching from disposal areas to releases from mining and milling operations left by private parties on lands managed by the Department of Interior and the USDA Forest Service. Because many of these sites are geographically isolated or have contamination attributable to non-agency activities, the identification and assessment of these
sites is in the earliest stages. The Federal Facilities Profile table on page 16 summarizes the scope of the cleanup challenges faced by each agency.
DOE now must manage a large inventory of stored wastes and clean up contamination at 137 DOE facilities in 33 States and one territory. This represents over 1,200 separate cleanup tasks -- with over 10,000 potential release sites -- that are known throughout the complex today. The most pressing cleanup challenge consists of 15 major facilities and a dozen or so smaller facilities. Six of the major facilities--Hanford, Savannah River, Oak Ridge, Fernald, Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and Rocky Flats -- account for approximately 80 percent of DOE's environmental management budget. In addition, DOE is responsible for environmental cleanup at other facilities formerly used in the production of weapons or the mining and enrichment of uranium, and for cleaning up mixtures of radioactive and hazardous waste. Contamination at these sites is primarily comprised of radioactive and hazard ous wastes and fissile material. These contaminants present technological cleanup challenges unique to DOE. The most common contaminated areas are buildings, soil, storage tanks and basins used in the past for waste disposal.
DOE's Environmental Management (EM) program has four major responsibilities:
Thus, the EM program consists of both managing existing and newly generated wastes and cleaning up historic contamination. This is significant for two reasons. First, the cleanup programs at all other Federal agencies discussed in this paper -- DOD, NASA, Interior, and Agriculture--do not include management of existing wastes in their scope or cost estimates. Second, the nature of the laws for day-to-day management differ from those for cleanup. Laws governing day-to-day waste management are generally more prescriptive and technical and tend to be focused on preventing or restricting environmental releases at active facilities. Their enforcement is characterized by a near-term focus and strict technical interpretation. Laws governing cleanup, however, generally focus on actual or potential releases of contamination at inactive facilities or where there has already been a release to the environment. Thus, enforcement can be characterized by both an immediate focus on managing existing, newly generated, and future waste and by a longer-term focus on remediation of previously contaminated sites with the potential for greater flexibility in negotiating compliance activities. It is important to distinguish between day-to-day environmental compliance and longer-term cleanup projects to ensure that in the debate over the setting of priorities, those pollution-avoidance activities that serve as the backbone of our Nation's environmental program are not inadvertently compromised.
The life-cycle cost estimates of the various aspects of EM's activities outlined above are detailed in the March 1995 report released by DOE entitled The 1995 Baseline Environmental Management Report (BEMR). The report represents the DOE's most comprehensive effort to date to estimate the scope and cost of its environmental responsibilities. The total cost estimate ranges from $200-$350 billion, in constant 1995 dollars, over a 75 year period from 1995-2070. Five major sites (Hanford, Savannah River, Rocky Flats, Oak Ridge, Idaho) represent 70 percent of the total estimate, and 90 percent of these costs would be incurred by 2035.
The Base Case presented in the BEMR incorporates a broad range of site-specific assumptions for future land use, cleanup levels, and technology, as well as the pace, priority, and configuration of activities. The assumptions in the BEMR report, which have a major impact on the estimates presented, include the following:
The BEMR estimates exclude projects for which no current feasible remediation approach exists, such as: nuclear explosion test areas (e.g. the Nevada Test Site); large contaminated river systems, like the Clinch, Columbia, and Savannah rivers; most groundwater (even with treatment, future use will remain restricted); and some special nuclear materials (e.g. 50 tons of plutonium not now identified as surplus). Long-term surveillance and maintenance costs of $50-$75 million per year are also excluded.
The low and high ends of the overall range of estimates vary from the Base Case, depending on important assumptions about productivity over the life of the program. The Base Case estimate of $230 billion assumes a highly ambitious 20 percent increase in productivity and efficiency over the next five years and an additional 1 percent annual productivity improvement over the life of the program. The low end figure, $200 billion, assumes a 20 percent increase in productivity over the next five years, followed by a 2 percent annual increase in productivity improvement. The high-end of the range, $350 billion, assumes continuation of current levels of program efficiency.
As DOE's analysis demonstrates, any estimate of the overall cost of DOE cleanup is subject to great uncertainty, and the range of estimates would clearly be much higher if productivity goals were not achieved, less conservative land use patterns were chosen, or remediation activity were required at currently excluded sites. Currently, DOE divides its Environmental Restoration activities into 17 primary projects (primarily corresponding to the major DOE facilities) and 850 subprojects. DOE claims that, at the end of 1994, characterization of 33 percent (282) of its subprojects was complete and that an additional 12 percent (100) will be continued and 9 percent (78) will be completed in 1995. More is beginning to be spent on actual remediation work than on assessment and characterization. Fifty-six percent of total environmental restoration funding of $1.8 billion in FY 1995 is directed toward remediation, or deactivation and decommissioning, with 44 percent going to assessment. In FY 1994, the split was 50/50.
It is more difficult to establish meaningful overall performance measures for the waste management, technology development, and nuclear materials and facility stabilization program areas. Current measures tend to be project specific. For example, DOE sought a 2 to 4 million gallon reduction in leakage from tanks at Hanford and a 2.4 million gallon reduction was realized in 1994; waste management processed 19.2 million gallons of liquid waste, close to its goal of 20.2 million gallons; and 23 of 24 tank safety activities were completed at Hanford. While these measures represent progress toward defining results, considerable opportunity exists for integrating and further improving measures to give a truer picture of overall EM performance. DOE also has begun meeting its goal of better allocating its resources according to risk. For example, the Department's draft risk report concludes that 78 percent of DOE's EM budget is devoted to high and medium risk activities.
The terms of DOE's 71 active interagency agreements require DOE to meet a schedule of activities that serve as enforceable milestones. These milestones have played a major role in EM's planning, budgeting and priority setting. About 80 percent of the EM's budget is specifically directed to meet requirements of compliance agreement milestones and environmental regulations. In 1994, DOE met 399 of 437 milestones (87 percent). Within EM, the environmental restoration program is responsible for 69 percent of all EM milestones. Waste management completed 99 percent or 127 of its enforceable agreement milestones, an 11 percent improvement over FY 1993. Nuclear materials and facility stabilization had only three enforceable milestones, all of which were completed. Technology development had no enforceable milestones.
Department of Defense.
DOD faces a significant cleanup challenge. Some work started in the late 1970s and continued in the early 1980s. Since 1984, when a separate cleanup fund source was created by Congress, the Department has been engaged in cleanup at 21,425 potentially contaminated sites on 1,769 military installations. In addition, the Department is also involved in cleanup activities at Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS). FUDS are properties formerly owned by, leased to, used by, or otherwise under the operational control of DOD. The cleanup program at FUD properties is similar to that at DOD installations. There are a total of 8,316 FUD properties potentially eligible for DOD funding.
The majority of DOD sites are associated with past practices involving the use of fuels and solvents for operation and maintenance of activities at military installations. Spills or leaks occurring as a result of these activities may have affected the immediate surface or subsurface areas around the site. In some cases, a contaminant may have been spread to other areas by stormwater runoff or groundwater movement. Many sites are former treatment, storage, or disposal areas, such as landfills and wastewater treatment facilities. There are a few sites that present unusual challenges for DOD: weapons testing ranges where munitions have been used and unlocated unexploded ordnance may exist; ordnance disposal areas where munitions were buried many decades ago; fire fighting training areas where fuels and other flammable substances have been burned; and low-level radioactive waste areas at which common aircraft dials and other slightly radioactive instruments have been disposed.
At the end of FY 1994, DOD had a total of 21,425 potentially contaminated sites on 1,769 military installations. Of these sites, 9,640 have been closed out, mainly through studies that determined no cleanup was needed. As a result, there are currently about 800 installations with 11,785 sites where a study or cleanup are underway. In addition, there are a total of 8,316 FUD properties potentially eligible for DOD funding. At the end of FY 1994, DOD had closed out or determined no DOD responsibility at 4,604 of these FUD properties.
The pace of DOD's progress at those sites is reflected in the fact that it now spends more in actual cleanup work than studies -- over 47 percent of its funding was spent on actual cleanup, compared to 40 percent for studies. The remaining 13 percent was spent on program administration costs. In FY 1995, prior to the $300 million rescission, DOD projected that it would invest over 60 percent of its funding for actual cleanup work and only 26 percent for studies. DOD's goal is to invest 69 percent of its funding for actual cleanup work in FY 1996.
DOD's current estimate for completing its cleanup program is $26.2 billion in 1994 dollars. DOD's cost estimate is also subject to significant uncertainty and is currently being revised to take advantage of more detailed site-level information. DOD has increased its focus on implementing interim measures -- removal actions and interim remedial actions -- to accelerate reduction of risk to human health and the environment. Interim actions result in the stabilization or removal of contamination sources and thereby reduce or eliminate immediate risks. Interim actions, such as installing fences and providing alternative drinking water supplies, greatly reduce risk by eliminating exposure to contaminants. Other interim actions include source removal, capping, and pumping-and-treating groundwater.
At the end of September 1994, 1,387 interim actions at 1,173 sites had been completed, and another 573 interim actions were underway at 551 sites. The number of interim actions completed and underway at any given time are key indicators of DOD cleanup progress, because interim actions involving waste removal and treatment may satisfy final cleanup requirements. For example, the Air Force took immediate action to stabilize a threat posed to a national wildlife refuge by a 10,000 cubic yard ash pile containing lead on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific. EPA Region 9 wanted timely action to control the contamination. The interim action involved spraying the ash pile with a liquid polymer. In two days, this action stopped contaminants from leaching to a nearby lagoon containing endangered species.
DOD has not systematically collected data on actual risk reduction attributable to its program. DOD is currently evaluating the relative risk of its sites in order to categorize the threat of existing site conditions as either high, medium and low. DOD expects to tie future funding levels to the reduction of relative risk of its sites. In addition, performance measures are being established for environmental work at closing bases. This will include categorizing the relative risk of sites on closing installations and measuring the availability of property environmentally suitable for transfer.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
NASA faces industrial cleanup challenges similar to those of DOD at a relatively small number of facilities. NASA is responsible for cleaning up approximately 730 potentially contaminated sites at ten major centers and seven smaller ones, and believes that this list is complete. At 155 of these sites, no further action is required or active remediation has been completed. Another 350 are currently undergoing site evaluation and preliminary assessment, and 75 are undergoing active remediation. NASA plans to investigate the remaining 150 sites over the next two years.
NASA produced these hazardous wastes through its research, operations, and maintenance activities. To facilitate meeting Federal, State, and local environmental requirements, NASA uses a decentralized management approach, with policy guidance, priority setting and oversight from a central Environmental Management Office. The central office has delegated responsibility for environmental compliance to its ten center directors.
Contaminants at these sites are primarily fuels, solvents and industrial waste attributable to such problems as leaking underground storage tanks, exposed asbestos and mercury spills. The current NASA estimate for completing cleanup is $1.5-2 billion, in constant 1994 dollars. NASA plans to complete its cleanup program within the next 25 years, with annual funding requirements of $45-55 million to meet its environmental requirements. NASA has obligated over $136 million since 1988 for environmental restoration, compliance, and pollution prevention.
Department of the Interior.
The DOI is responsible for a large number of potentially contaminated sites on the more than 440 million acres of Federal land that it manages. Much of this remediation challenge is the result of actions by users of Federal lands, including private parties, Indian tribes, other Federal agencies, and DOI. DOI estimates preliminarily that it may have as many as 26,000 sites requiring some cleanup. At many of these sites, responsibility would be shared with the parties who undertook the activities resulting in contamination. The most common site types are abandoned mines, oil and gas production sites, underground storage tanks, and landfills. To the best of DOI's current knowledge, the contaminants at these sites are primarily sedimentation in surface waters, acid mine drainage, chemically-reactive mining wastes, and industrial and household chemical wastes.
The current DOI estimate for completing cleanup is $3.9 billion to $8.2 billion in constant 1994 dollars. DOI does not yet have an estimate for the number of years to complete its cleanup program. DOI is funding cleanup activities at eight sites in FY 1995 through its Central Hazmat Fund (CHF), a centralized no-year fund for remedial investigations/feasibility studies and cleanups at hazardous waste sites for which DOI may be liable. DOI may fund activities at these and additional sites during FY 1996 using the CHF, contingent upon the final enacted funding levels. Additional site cleanup activities are funded through the appropriations of the DOI bureaus with responsibility for the sites.
Department of Agriculture.
USDA estimates that there may be 3,500 potential CERCLA or RCRA sites on lands they manage. Ninety-six cleanup projects were completed at such sites in FY 1994, while 272 sites were investigated and another 70 were identified as needing investigation. Of its estimated 25,000 abandoned and inactive mining sites, USDA estimates that only about 10 percent are likely to require environmental cleanup under CERCLA. As with DOI, many of these sites occur on land under USDA's management, but the contamination may not have been caused by USDA's operations. The most common site types are abandoned mines and landfills. Hazardous wastes from mining, chemical wastes, and sedimentation in surface waters are the primary contaminants at these sites. Not all agencies within the Department have completed their final inventories of potentially contaminated sites. Once these are completed in 1996, the estimate will be revised. The present USDA estimate for completing cleanup is $2.5 billion, in constant 1994 dollars. Some part of the total is anticipated to be paid by private sector responsible parties, particularly in case of abandoned mines at or adjacent to national forests.
Overall, its program is at an early stage of development, with basic site inventories remaining to be completed by the responsible agencies within the Department. USDA plans to complete its site cleanup program within the next 40 years and natural resource restoration within the next 50 years.
B. Building Knowledge About Relative Risk at
It may seem a simple expectation and task for agencies to complete risk
assessments of all sites, but in reality this task has proven a sizeable and expensive,
yet essential, undertaking. DOE and DOD are the two Federal agencies that have made
the greatest progress the effort to assess and evaluate risks. The other agencies are still
in earlier stages of locating, assessing, characterizing, and evaluating the relative risks of
their sites. There nonetheless has been increasing progress in developing our
understanding of risk at Federal facility sites and improving the risk-assessment
protocols by which remediation decisions are made. The collective level of knowledge
and experience in the use of risk assessment and analysis continues to build, and the
science of risk assessment continues to evolve and be refined. It has been, and continues
to be, very difficult to make detailed and accurate comparisons of relative risk across
agencies, both because available information has been so limited and because
the nature of risks varies so greatly from one agency to another. For example,
EPA human health risk assessment for Superfund focus on cancer risk, while OSHA
assessments focus on worker safety and health. While the quality of available information
is often inadequate to make quantitative assessments of risk and comparisons of
relative risk across sites and agencies, it is possible to use qualitative approaches
incorporating such data and knowledge as do exist, to inform our understanding of those
risks. Of course, assessments of the nature and magnitude of risks must be combined
with additional information about technical resources, social, economic, and political
values, and other factors to evaluate cleanup options and priorities in making sound
risk management decisions.
Extrapolating risk information across DOE sites is a difficult task. Even trying to establish priorities within one site, given the different kinds of environmental settings, contaminations of concern and ongoing activities, can prove quite challenging. For example, just one site might contain the following competing priorities: remediating an Operable Unit under Superfund, siting of a hazardous waste site under RCRA, or stabilizing nuclear materials under recommendations from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. DOE, however, has a few sites that have presented tremendous risks to the public, workers and the environment that are far in excess of those faced by other agencies. One of the most significant of these was the SY-101 tank at Hanford that emitted hydrogen gas and presented an explosion hazard until DOE installed a special mixing pump to recirculate the tank contents. DOE has aggressively taken actions to lower the risk associated with such urgent problems as SY-101.
Ongoing efforts within the last eighteen months by the National Academy of Sciences, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and an interagency working group of Federal agencies have produced new guidelines on risk assessment and priority-setting pertinent to environmental cleanup. At the request of DOE, the National Academy of Sciences prepared a report to advise DOE on risk assessment and management. This report, issued in 1994, concluded that greater use of risk-based decision making is both feasible and desirable. Based upon this report, as well as principles for risk assessment developed by an interagency task force headed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, DOE issued a set of risk principles in January, 1995, that are specifically tailored to DOE's waste management and remediation activities. The DOE principles are being used as interim guidance while comments are received. Separately, EPA Administrator Browner issued new guidance on risk characterization in March 1995, to promote "transparency, clarity, consistency, and reasonableness"; in the agency's judgments about environmental and public health risk. EPA is now working with DOE to ensure that implementation of that guidance corresponds to DOE's interim guidance on risk. EPA also is improving risk judgments in cleanup through policy directives like its future land use guidance, issued in May 1995, which will help ensure that future land use is factored into risk assumptions and remedial decisions. These guidelines for assessing risk and tools for comparing risks across sites should strengthen the decision making and better ensure that funds are being spent on the highest priority sites. In addition, there should be an increasing degree of consistency in relative risk judgments across Federal agencies as these new efforts are implemented.
In addition to the risk assessment efforts being undertaken by EPA, DOD, DOE and other Federal agencies, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry evaluates the public health impacts of past, present, and future potential releases of hazardous substances from Federal (as well as non-Federal) National Priority List (NPL) sites through the conduct of Public Health Assessments and other health studies (e.g. community health studies, health surveillance, and medical monitoring.) The data from these efforts provides a complement to site risk assessments by assessing human exposure levels and health impacts in affected communities.
While the science of risk assessment has been advancing, so too has site-specific progress at each of the responsible Federal agencies. The magnitude and complexity of the problems are unquestionably greatest at DOE. DOD, with thousands of active sites, and NASA, with a limited number of industrial-type facilities, are the furthest along in assessing and addressing their sites. USDA and DOI, while making progress in many areas, are by contrast, at the early stages of identifying and responding to their problems at sites with contamination caused by private parties, such as mining operations.
Progress also has been made in recognizing that risk analysis, and risk reduction benefits must consider risks associated with the cleanup itself, such as risks to workers or natural resources that are created by proposed cleanup. Greater risk at DOE facilities generally appears to be to workers. For example, the Department recently completed a comprehensive study of the potential environment, safety and health risks ("vulnerabilities") that arise from the storage of plutonium in its facilities. Out of 299 potential risks discovered, the 15 most significant did not affect the public at all. Instead, the 15 greatest risks resulted from relatively small releases of plutonium into work areas. The study found no potential risks to the public or environment that were highly likely. The 22 potential risks with greatest consequences to the public or the environment that it did identify, such as large internal fires or explosions, earthquakes, or aircraft crashes, all had medium or low likelihoods of occurrence.
The risks at most DOD sites are better understood and appear similar to those occurring in private industry. Most DOD contamination results from past operation and maintenance practices involving the use of fuels and solvents. Contamination at other Federal agencies' facilities has received much less study than at DOD or DOE; however, their risks generally are believed to be similar to those resulting from hazardous substance contamination in the private sector.
Further progress is necessary to fully incorporate ecological risks into relative risk judgments. Even where risks to human health are low, there may be injury to natural resources, particularly at those sites that include extensive land areas that have been minimally developed or used. The extent of such injury is not fully known, because natural resource damage assessments have generally not received adequate funding. In addition, as in the case of worker risk, there needs to be more consideration of natural resource damage attributable to cleanup activities.
C. DOD: A Relative Risk Framework and Community
DOD is making significant progress in its cleanup program. However, since
the inception of a dedicated funding source in 1984 by Congress, the Department has
been unable to document risk reduction or meaningful cleanup progress attributable to
its cleanup program. As a result, DOD implemented a relative risk framework in order
to evaluate its progress in reducing threats to human health and the environment at its sites.
Use of this framework as a management and decision-making tool, in combination with community outreach, promises significant program improvement.
Under the framework, sites are grouped into low, medium, and high categories. In making these judgments, DOD first considers the nature of the contaminant, the pathway (i.e. the likelihood of transport of contaminants by soil, groundwater, or surface water), and the possible receptors (portions of the public or environment that may be biologically affected). The results of this analysis are presented to members of the Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs) at installations for their discussion and review. In designing the relative risk framework, DOD incorporated early stakeholder involvement in the process by using the RABs as a mechanism for discussing the relative risk ranking of sites at installations. RABs serve as a forum for exchanging cleanup information with concerned Federal and state officials and local stakeholders. The Department's plan is to expand the number of RABs that participate in the relative risk ranking of sites at DOD installations. RAB members are able to advise and provide input that may change the final ranking of a site at an installation. The involvement of RABs in the relative risk framework have helped to open an earnest dialogue and partnering between stakeholders and the Department at the local level. As a result, DOD has had considerable success when RABs have participated in relative risk ranking of sites at its installations.
In recent years, DOD has increasingly focused its cleanup funding strategy on efforts required by schedules and milestones in agreements in order to meet the Department's overall budget targets. This funding strategy resulted in more sites being covered under agreements, since it was the only mechanism to obtain funding. However, the Department's approach did not always ensure funding was allocated to the most urgent sites. Beginning in FY 1996, DOD began to transition to building its budget based on reducing relative risk while still meeting all legal agreements. In FY 1997, the Department will base its budget on reducing relative risk at sites while meeting schedules and milestones in legal agreements. Furthermore, the Department will work with the regulatory community to stretch cleanup schedules at lower relative risk sites until funding becomes available. A shift toward using the relative risk framework to establish funding priorities is now underway at DOD. For example, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama has 32 potentially contaminated sites; 9 of these sites require no further action. In 1994, a RAB was established with 14 members who were provided training on the DOD relative risk framework. The ranking of the sites at Maxwell Air force Base, using the relative risk framework, was presented to the RAB for their discussion and review. Discussion of the relative site rankings was lengthy and spirited. However, the RAB agreed with the rankings as submitted by the installation. Funding for these sites in the FY 1996 budget was allocated based on priority as a result of the relative risk ranking. Several RAB members expressed their appreciation for the honest and open nature of the process. The members felt that the relative risk framework is a process the average citizen can understand.
In addition, DOD continues to build partnerships through the Defense Environmental Response Task Force, whose membership includes representatives from DOD, EPA, Department of Justice, General Services Administration, National Governors' Association, National Association of Attorneys General, and public interest groups. The task force's goals are to examine environmental issues associated with the restoration and reuse of closing and military installations and to expedite and improve environmental response actions at those installations.
Other regional and installation-specific partnering initiatives have resulted in increased openness in dialogue and decision-making, higher levels of trust, and more productive negotiations. For example, an innovative partnership agreement among the Navy and regulatory agencies at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina has helped form a single vision for the installation's environmental restoration and base realignment activities, saving both time and money. In 1994, the Navy realized the success of this partnering initiative through the development of a $2.5 million abbreviated work plan for the investigation of four operable units. Partnering facilitated the development of this comprehensive work plan, saved an estimated $300,000, and cut at least one year off the cleanup schedule. The overall decision-making process was accelerated by achieving consensus among the partnering teams to shorten the work plan review time.
DOD is conducting environmental work at 100 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) locations. DOD has established cleanup teams comprised of representatives from the installations, EPA, and the respective State environmental agencies at over 70 bases, where property will be transferred. These teams have conducted bottom-up reviews of environmental programs and have developed BRAC cleanup plans for each installation. Furthermore, DOD has established RABs at 69 of the closing installations, which serve as a focal point for community participation in the cleanup process. In addition, DOD has completed all of the clean parcel determinations required under the Community Environmental Response Facilitation Act for the BRAC 1988, BRAC 1991, and BRAC 1993 installations. This activity identifies uncontaminated parcels on closing installations, so that property can become available for rapid transfer for reuse.
In addition, performance measures are being established for environmental work at closing bases. The measurement effort will include categorizing the relative risk of sites and measuring the availability of property environmentally suitable for transfer. As a result, DOD will be able to measure its progress and success in implementing the President's Fast Track Cleanup Program.
D. DOE: Ongoing Process Improvements.
DOE is now implementing fundamental reforms in its programs and improving
the performance of its environmental management and restoration activities. DOE
has undertaken a major contract reform initiative to provide contractors more
incentive to improve performance and contain costs. DOE has increased the
number of staff devoted to contractor oversight and cost-estimation; it has made
much greater efforts to identify and adopt best practices from industry and to
share knowledge across sites; it has pressed for contract reforms to improve
efficiency among its contractors; and it has accelerated efforts to explore
innovative cost-savings measures, such as privatizing the remediation of tanks
containing liquid radioactive waste by competitively contracting out on the
basis of fixed unit price for treated waste. DOE has created Site-Specific
Advisory Boards (SSABs) to increase local stakeholder knowledge of, and
participation in, the cleanup process. Discussions with the advisory boards
include the formulation of strategies based on reasonably anticipated future
land use. Additionally, DOE has just completed its first comprehensive
assessment of program costs and risks across the DOE complex which has more
closely tied priorities to risk and cost factors.
DOE is implementing its new contracting approaches at its Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado, which converted from nuclear weapons production to environmental cleanup and waste management in 1992. The strategy includes use of a mix of contractors and contract types, including fixed-price contracts, results-focused performance goals, performance-based criteria and measures, use of contractor incentives, increased contractor accountability, and government/private-sector partnership arrangements for project integration. In addition, at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, DOE has issued a contract consolidating five separate M&O contracts into one with a strong emphasis on performance, results, and cost savings. In both cases, DOE is inviting substantial contractor innovation in defining how the work is to be designed and accomplished.
A number of specific contract cost areas have been identified in recently completed studies as significant potential sources for cost savings. Some of these studies have evaluated broad cost categories such as overhead (which can be particularly problematic in cases where some of the work is done by subcontractors), indirect, and project management costs. They have concluded that the cost of Federal cleanup is generally higher than the cost of comparable non-Federal work. Other studies, including some undertaken by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), have focused on very specific costs, often at a limited number of sites and determined that some cost items were excessive.
DOE also is undertaking numerous initiatives to improve contract management by improving its own workforce skills and management information systems for contract oversight and administration. The initiatives involve strengthening DOE financial and accounting systems; improving management of various categories of costs, including indirect costs; and modifying DOE's cost-reimbursement policies. The latter initiative will lead DOE to pay for contractor results rather than incurred costs, to reduce reimbursement of contractor-incurred fines and penalties, and to rely on the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) in lieu of DOE's acquisition regulations (DEAR). DOE also will reduce the costs of contractor litigation through creation of a formal litigation management plan, tight guidelines for contractor retention and use of litigation counsel, and closer oversight and control of litigation decision-making.
DOE has undertaken several initiatives to reverse this trend. First, as part of a pilot project organized under the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), DOE was authorized to hire 1,600 additional FTEs through contractor conversion. Of the first 1,200 allotted, 850 were allocated to field operations. These 1,200 positions, most of which have now been filled, will help achieve cost savings and improve cleanup contract management and oversight. An evaluation of this effort will provide more definitive answers on its success in achieving these goals. In addition, as part of a far-reaching agency strategic realignment and restructuring, DOE is streamlining its headquarters organizations and processes to reduce excessive overhead and oversight. Much like DOD, DOE will be focusing its headquarters efforts on determining policy and overall strategy, leaving field managers responsible for implementation of cleanup. Finally, in early 1995, DOE announced its intent to reduce its number of contractor personnel by 39,500 (from FY 1992 levels).
In addition, in FY 1995, DOE sponsored the first "workout" -- a site-specific discussion between the Department and its regulators to identify opportunities to improve cost efficiency. To date, workouts have been held for Hanford and Savannah River. The Hanford workout identified $1 billion in FY 1996-1998 savings, without compromising compliance with existing laws and regulations. Similarly, the Savannah River workout identified FY 1997 potential savings between $80 - $140 million, again without compromising compliance with existing laws or regulations. EPA has strongly endorsed the application and acceleration of these site-wide reviews to other DOE major facilities.
In addition, DOE recently convened a broad stakeholder process to prepare recommendations concerning further privatization of DOE operations. These recommendations are anticipated in September, 1995. Another DOE proposal under consideration could accelerate deactivation (removal of radiological and hazardous waste contaminants) from non-operational DOE facilities and save money. Under this proposal, DOE would hire private firms to deactivate buildings, where the private firms would supply the necessary funding for the project. DOE would pay the contractor over a period of years from the surveillance and maintenance cost savings, which result from deactivation. Payment would not begin until deactivation had resulted in cost reductions. The savings would be shared between the government and the contractor as specified in the contract.
The EM program has realized tangible benefits from stakeholder involvement.  For example, the Department and regulators recently canceled the proposed closure of one waste area at Oak Ridge National Laboratory after stakeholders expressed concerns about the high cost and minimal benefits involved in the closure. Stakeholder involvement in the renegotiation of the Hanford Tri-Party Agreement enabled the Department to change several critical aspects of the Agreement. Stakeholder involvement at the Fernald, Ohio site enabled the Department to save over $1 billion by stakeholders agreeing to accept less exacting cleanup levels than originally proposed.
The EM program has also begun involving stakeholders in the areas of environmental justice and managerial policy. Recently, the EM program released a draft paper outlining an environmental justice public participation strategy for public comment. A major objective of such a policy is to ensure that the Native American and other disadvantaged communities around cleanup sites are responsibly included in regulatory negotiations. The EM program also reconstituted the Environmental Management Advisory Board, which will serve as a board of directors to advise the EM Assistant Secretary on various program issues. The board is comprised of 28 representatives from labor, EPA, tribes, States, and citizen groups.
The process of stakeholder involvement at DOE is a dynamic one that continues to evolve. Stakeholder contributions are especially important in the areas of site-based risk assessments, future land use determinations, resource allocation decisions, and the ongoing assessment of environmental priorities.
In fiscal year 1995, however, the funding trend was finally reversed with a greater percentage of Environmental Restoration funding now going toward remediation than to assessment. In March of 1995, DOE released the Baseline Environmental Management Report (BEMR) that for the first time catalogues the scope of managing DOE environmental contamination. For DOE, the BEMR report identifies a total of approximately 10,500 potential release units from which contaminants could migrate into the environment. Many, but not all, of these units have been assessed for their contamination potential, but only one quarter of them have been fully characterized. In some areas, such as the permanent isolation of high level waste in a geologic repository, the problem is well understood, but the solution is not available at present, nor will it be until at least the year 2015. In other cases, such as soil contamination from underground testing in Nevada, no remedy is available or even on the horizon. Thus, the full scope of the problem is still not completely defined and great uncertainty still exists in the estimate. Nevertheless, it is one of the first department-wide comprehensive looks at examination of the balance between risk, costs, benefits, and land reuse. The fact that resources are increasingly being devoted to cleanup instead of assessment indicates that the boundaries of the DOE challenge are much better defined and real cleanup is in progress. Certainly the assist that the baseline analysis provides to DOE decision makers and to interested stakeholders in determining how best to put available resources to work cannot be underestimated.
|Department of Energy||$200-$350|
|Department of Defense||$26|
|Department of the Interior||$4-$8|
|U.S. Department of Agriculture||$2.5|
|National Aeronautics and Space Administration||$1.5-$2|
|Total||$234 to $389|
*The cost range for DOE is in FY 1995 dollars and includes unique operational, safety, and national security costs. The other agencies report in 1994 dollars.
The estimated range for the total cost was developed by aggregating existing agency estimates and analyses. While there was an attempt to define "cleanup"; in a roughly standard way, no attempt was made to apply a common methodology because of the doubts over the value of such a time-consuming exercise and the tremendous variation among the different programs. Agency cleanup programs differ widely in maturity, extent of contamination, level of information available, cleanup methods, technical feasibility and ultimately even the level of actual cleanup that is likely. The range provided is broad mostly because of uncertainties in DOE's future costs. Total cost estimates are and is likely to change over time as knowledge and experience improves. However, the sheer magnitude of the projected costs in relation to the annual total discretionary Federal budget (about $550 billion annually) underscores the imperative to allocate Federal resources wisely and efficiently.
The estimate covers the cost to clean up contamination from past activities at Federal facilities at all but DOI sites. All agency estimates include costs for studies, remedial design, and remedial actions. The estimated costs of decontaminating and decommissioning facilities, including complying with the Federal Facility Compliance Act, and environmental work at closing military bases (except for BRAC I sites) are also included in the overall estimate. Environmental technology development costs are included for DOE and DOD because of their significance to the total program. Technology development costs for other agencies are minimal and are therefore not included in the estimate.
Estimates do not, in general, include the costs of day-to-day compliance for ongoing waste management operations, which represent another large claim on our nation's resources and compete with cleanup. However, because of the indestructible nature of radioactive wastes, DOE must by necessity isolate these wastes virtually in perpetuity. Its cleanup estimate therefore includes the cost of treatment, storage and disposal for the current inventory of stored waste, waste from continuing operations, and waste derived from remediation activities at sites such as Hanford, Washington, that do not have active on-going government missions. Although DOE's EM program classifies all of these legacy and non-legacy waste operation costs as compliance costs, they are included in DOE's total cleanup costs to better capture the scope of the DOE challenge. Other agencies do not have such perpetuity costs and so their cleanup estimates do not include costs for compliance. Estimates for DOD, DOE and DOI do include long-term maintenance and operations costs for remediation alternatives. These costs can be substantial depending on the remedy selected. For example, these costs represent nearly 17 percent of DOD's total cost for cleanup. USDA Forest Service costs do not reflect the possible, cost recovery from potential responsible parties (PRPs) on Federal lands or private operators cleanup of contamination related to their activities.
A breakdown of the Federal facility cleanup over the last five fiscal years is shown in Table 2 below.
a/ Includes funding from the Defense Environmental Restoration and Base Realignment and Closure Accounts
b/ Central account for RCRA/CERCLA
c/ Office of Federal Facility Enforcement
Balancing budgetary objectives is particularly constraining for DOE in light of the obligation to meet the requirements of over 70 active compliance agreements entered into with EPA and various States. As DOE has refocused its attention from weapons production to environmental management, the budget for environmental management grew by an average of 27 percent per year from $1.8 billion in FY 1989 to almost $6 billion in FY 1995. However, if we take into consideration the transfer of significant program responsibilities from other DOE program areas, resources in FY 1996 actually decrease from FY 1995 in nominal and constant dollar terms.
In the next five years, DOE will face the most significant challenge of any agency in being able to stay within budget targets established by the Administration. The EM program's revised targets go from $6.6 billion in FY 1996 to $5.5 billion in FY 2000 in current dollars ($4.8 billion in constant 1995 dollars) -- a reduction of 27 percent in constant dollars. Nevertheless, EM's responsibilities will continue to expand in coming years. For example, EM must decontaminate and decommission an enormous and growing backlog of facilities deemed surplus by other DOE program areas. EM continues to assume responsibility for high priority DOE missions such as foreign spent nuclear fuel management and plutonium stabilization. EM will also need to fund and build mixed waste treatment facilities to fulfill its obligations under the FFCA. All of these activities compete with other Federal programs within a limited amount of discretionary funds.
The chart below presents a comparison between the five-year base case in the recently released Baseline Environmental Management Report (BEMR) cost estimate and the President's FY 1996 budget and outyear projections.
|FY 1996||FY 1997||FY 1998||FY 1999||FY 2000||5-Year Total|
|President's Budget Estimates||6.6||6.3||5.5||5.5||5.5||29.4|
BEMR base case projections assume a 20 percent increase in productivity improvement over the next five years. Even with these aggressive efficiency goals, the remaining budget shortfall will require major additional changes to the way DOE does business. The EM program plans to achieve significant progress in streamlining the DOE contractor workforce, reducing indirect and overhead labor costs, and contract reform; but these may be an insufficient source of savings to stay within the prescribed resource levels.
In DOD's case, reduced appropriations for Defense Environmental Restoration Account (DERA) during the past three fiscal years have led to renegotiations of cleanup milestones each year. DOE has also begun the process of reevaluating and, where necessary, renegotiating cleanup agreements to incorporate greater sensitivity to cost, risk, and technological feasibility.
B. Historical Management Obstacles
Critics have lodged charges of ineffectiveness and inefficiency with the
management of Federal facilities cleanup efforts since their inception. A look at the
difficulties faced by one department, DOE, follows. The case of DOE is
instructive because the magnitude of its remediation challenge and the rapidity with which
its cleanup program had to be developed led to a number of management problems.
Regulators have long held that a large portion of DOE's potential budgetary shortfalls could
be funded through a detailed review of DOE's own programs for management productivity
and streamlining grains. As previously described, DOE and other agencies involved in
cleanup have themselves identified many inefficiencies and are in the process of
addressing them. A summary of major problems now being address by the
Clinton Administration is provided below.
to DOE Program Improvement.
Federal facilities cleanup is largely executed by independent contractors. Nearly 50 percent of the total FY 1994 Federal facilities cleanup budget for all agencies was spent on DOE contracts alone. Any savings realized through changes in DOE's contracting practices offer the potential for significant savings in the total Federal facility cleanup costs. A DOE Contract Reform Team established by Secretary O'Leary found significant and systemic weaknesses in DOE historic contracting practices, including the absence of well-defined performance criteria and measures, the failure of DOE financial reporting systems to produce the information necessary to assess and manage effectively, and a lack of competition. The Contract Reform Team, the NPR, and numerous General Accounting Office reports found fault with excessive reliance on sole source, cost-plus-award-fee contracts over fixed-price contracts; use of nonstandard contract clauses; inadequate contractor oversight and cost-estimation capability and reliance on contractors to perform much of this work themselves; assumption of contractor risks; and lack of incentives for contractors to safeguard worker health and safety.
Past studies have revealed significant cost differences among EM sites performing the same kinds of work, between EM and other government agencies like the Corps of Engineers performing the same kinds of activities, and between DOE and the private sector. For example:
These examples have prompted DOE to examine ways to effect better cost control. Detailed initiatives planned in the areas of contract and management reform are addressed in Chapter 5.
C. The Need for Statutory and Regulatory
The inefficiency and waste that historically have been attributable to
management of the cleanup effort at Federal facilities have been
compounded by particular uncertainties and inefficiency associated with
the statutory and regulatory framework governing these cleanups.
These uncertainties are compounded by the potential overlay of one regulatory authority upon another. States have invoked their authority under RCRA or state law at superfund sites, and in some cases have imposed additional requirements beyond those required under CERCLA. Conversely, a site that is being remediated under a state RCRA or other program may be subject to listing on the NPL under CERCLA, introducing a different regulator and different cleanup criteria. At either type of site, contaminated media generated by the cleanup itself may be deemed "hazardous waste" subject to the separate panoply of RCRA regulations for hazardous waste transport, treatment, and disposal, even where cleanup of those wastes present extremely low risk.
Integration of different regulatory regimes has been made more difficult by the fact that, within each regulatory regime, the role of cost in cleanup decisions has been neither transparent nor consistent. Hampered by the limited information about risk available in the early stages of their programs, agencies were slow to set priorities among sites according to comparative risk. Even yet, they remain uncertain about whether those priorities can be implemented in the context of competing priorities set by different regulators, many of which are reduced to compliance agreements among the agency, EPA, and the state. Agencies also have been slow to develop risk assessment and risk characterization methods that are adequate to the task of implementing statutory cleanup goals according to sound science and realistic risk assumptions at federal facilities. For example, EPA just recently issued guidance to ensure that its remedy selection process explicitly takes into account the reasonably anticipated future land use at a site, which suggests that earlier decisions may have been based on unlikely future land uses, such as future residential use of an industrial site. Furthermore, there has been little guidance to ensure that risks to on-site remediation workers and ecological risks attributable to the remedy, itself, are taken into account when considering the risk-reduction benefits of different cleanup alternatives.
The role of cost, similarly, has been neither clearly nor consistently analyzed over the course of cleanup decisions for these programs. Consideration of future land use is one effective means of correlating cleanup costs with risk-reduction and other benefits, but the role of costs and standards of cost-effectiveness otherwise require better definition. Under CERCLA, courts have made clear that cost-effectiveness stands on an equal footing with other statutory criteria (such as the preference for permanence and treatment in remedies), but the statutory and regulatory criteria implementing these criteria have to date been subject to varying interpretation by different agencies. The development of additional approaches that address risks and costs in a categorical way -- such as presumptive remedies for particular types of sites and screening levels for specific contaminants -- have required significant time to develop and may have resulted in greater delay and cost at many Federal facility sites.
Finally, the absence of routine consultation between Federal facilities and the regulating agencies, and among agencies, regulators, and the affected communities has further impaired effective communication about risk and cleanup alternatives at sites. This has impeded the process of reconciling cleanup priorities with budgetary constraints, and diminished regulator and public understanding and confidence in Federal agency management of the cleanup process.
Within 15 months of signing a record of decision for cleanup, an agency must begin substantial continuous physical, on-site remediation.
In the past decade, DOD and DOE, the agencies with the majority of Federal sites on the NPL list, have entered into 182 IAGs under CERCLA. The potential for conflict between the EPA's CERCLA authority and the States' hazardous waste regulatory authority has provide d an additional incentive to negotiate three-party IAGs in order to establish a basis for consensus between the two regulators on cleanup strategy for a given site or facility. As a result, at Federal facility NPL sites, IAGs have become the principal mechanism for setting cleanup priorities and schedules, each with legally enforceable milestones for project completion. Due to hurried efforts to establish IAGs, negotiators for both agencies and their regulators established milestones with limited knowledge about the nature and extent of the contamination, relative risks to the public and workers, future land-use of the site, or the feasibility and costs of remedial action. In many cases, agencies entered into agreements without appreciating future budget limitations that would constrain their ability to meet the terms and milestones in these agreements.
The evolution of available information creates an ongoing need to modify timetables and milestones in IAGs. The IAGs have provisions for modifying technical requirements and schedules as circumstances warrant through clauses governing force majeure, extensions, funding and modification; however, such changes must be agreed to by regulators and the involved agency. Although the majority of agreements are only a few years old, most have undergone minor modifications or major revisions. For example, the Hanford Tri-Party Agreement, signed in 1989, has had over 150 modifications and was recently renegotiated. In practice, achieving agreement on other than relatively minor modifications requires a significant commitment from all of the parties involved. As a result, more feasible timetables have often been difficult to achieve.
Any effort to reconcile IAGs with the budget process must be conducted with consideration of the further requirements of Presidential Executive Order 12088 under which Federal agency heads are to "ensure that sufficient funds for compliance with applicable pollution control standards are requested in the agency budget". This principle has been incorporated in most of the IAGs and other agreements in order to ensure agencies seek the full level of funding required to meet the milestones in agreements. This provision has frustrated the efforts of certain Federal agencies to submit budgets that satisfy both budget targets and the Executive Order, since the funding requirements for commitments within signed IAGs have often exceeded their budget targets. DOE, for example, has gone from average annual funding increases of about 25 percent from FY 1990 through FY 1993 to annual funding reductions from FY 1994 through FY 1996. As a result, a number of current IAG schedules or commitments may well need to be modified to reflect these new funding constraints. Otherwise, the result will be a tension between two competing mandates: Executive Order 12088 and the Budget Enforcement Act.
These are urgent problems with grave implications for the budget and for sound cleanup management. RCRA, as amended by the FFCA, waives sovereign immunity for civil and criminal penalties and state enforcement actions for failure to comply with hazardous waste management requirements. Accordingly, when shortfalls occur, agencies must resolve the conflicting priorities set via enforcement actions which are imposed by the multiple jurisdictions to which the agencies are subject. Civil penalty awards that might result from noncompliance threaten a further drain on available resources. Potential exposure to contempt citations or other sanctions threatens to distort agency priority-setting and undermine sound management.
In the past, when appropriations for cleanup were below the level requested by Federal agencies, shortfalls were generally distributed by determining which schedules in agreements could be renegotiated. Some agency agreements contained a force majeure provision, which permitted agencies to renegotiate agreements based upon Congressional reductions. As shortfalls become more significant, however, this site- by-site process has begun to impede rational and systematic priority setting. Another approach, recommended by the FFERDC is generally to distribute the shortfall on a pro-rata basis to each site. The FFERDC position is premised on the assumption that neither the President nor any agency should ever request less than the appropriation that would be necessary to meet all existing milestones. FFERDC believes that pro rata distribution of a shortfall is best, because it believes that existing data and science are inadequate to determine objective, consensus cleanup priorities and that factors other than human health and environmental risk need to be considered in allocating cleanup funds.
At DOE, the allocation of funding is made first to stabilize those sites that represent a significant and urgent risk to human health and the environment -- the first of six goals for environmental management. The other five goals are: (2) providing a safer workplace; (3) addressing managerial and financial goals; (4) becoming more outcome oriented; (5) pursuing innovative technologies; and (6) implementing a public involvement process. In some cases, DOE has already used these program goals to identify its urgent sites and applicable technologies, and has begun corrective actions. Systematic, risk-based prioritization has been lacking throughout most years of the program. However, DOE has begun using data from its recently-completed draft risk report to identify its most urgent risks and guide its environmental management activities.
DOD, similarly, has found that its current polices and practices do not always address the worst sites first. In recent years, DOD has increasingly focused its cleanup funding strategy on efforts required by schedules and milestones in agreements in order to meet the Department's overall budget targets. This funding strategy resulted in more sites being covered under agreements, since it was the only mechanism to obtain funding. However, the Department's approach did not always ensure funding was allocated to the most urgent sites. Beginning in FY 1996, DOD began to transition to building its budget based on reducing relative risk while still meeting all legal agreements. In FY 1997, the Department will base its budget on reducing relative risk at sites while meeting schedules and milestones in legal agreements. Furthermore, the Department will work with the regulatory community to stretch cleanup schedules at lower relative risk sites until funding becomes available.
D. The Special Problems of Radioactive
Radioactive waste presents a great remediation challenge for the Federal
government. Much of this waste will remain radioactive for many years -- up to tens of
thousands of years. It cannot generally be neutralized, but must be contained instead. In many
cases, treatment technology is not available.
Because of the potential impact upon many future generations, remediation plans must essentially provide for perpetual care of long-lived wastes and take into account unusual technical concerns of residual radionuclides. Even characterization of the waste has been difficult due to the health risks to workers. A lack of agreement upon the threshold level in soil, surface or groundwater which will prevent unacceptable risks to human health, as well as related uncertainties about future land use of former weapons production sites, pose major obstacles to DOE's efforts to conduct remediation at these sites. As DOE has point ed out in its recent Baseline Environmental Management Report (BEMR), decisions regarding land use, allowable residual contamination and technology advances, will dramatically affect the cost; and, given limited resources available, the timetable for remediation.
Highly radioactive waste presents a much greater technological challenge. Spent fuel and high-level waste from the nuclear weapons complex contains concentrated quantities of radioactive nuclides which decay very slowly. This poses a long-term hazard that requires disposal and isolation from the environment for thousands of years. Efforts are currently in progress at DOE to see whether Yucca Mountain, Nevada is scientifically suitable to serve as a repository for these high-level wastes. Transuranic wastes from defense plutonium activities also require similar permanent disposal until the radioactive elements decay sufficiently. DOE's near-term challenge is to store this waste safely until a deep underground geologic repository is available for permanent disposal. A separate facility near Carlsbad, New Mexico, called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), is in the process of certification for transuranic wastes. The fact that these highly radioactive and long-lived wastes will need to be confined and isolated as far into the future as we currently have recorded history emphasizes the complexity of the cleanup challenge.
A great deal of research has gone into finding treatment technologies suitable for stabilizing radioactive material for long periods of time and geologic conditions suitable for final repositories for radioactive wastes. Unfortunately, commitment to a single solution has on several occasions been diverted or weakened by suggestions that some new technological advance will provide a better answer. It is true that much of the field of material science is still quite immature as a science. Thus, although the effect of radiation upon the strength, as well as corrosion rate, of materials has been studied for over half a century, there is still uncertainty over whether materials stable over a number of decades will in fact be equally resilient over a period of 10,000 years. This uneasiness has delayed decision making and support for rapid development of these final repositories. In the short term, it generates difficult questions about the type of treatment necessary to make waste ready for acceptance into a long-term disposal facility. Efforts continue to ready the WIPP facility by 1998 and Yucca Mountain sometime before 2015, assuming it is found scientifically suitable.
The extent to which we will safely protect human health and the environment from long-lived radionuclides, while also minimizing the financial and technical burden of nuclear waste disposal passed on to future generations, will in large measure depend on decisions made today. Choices on the type of land reuse, the length of time we are willing to wait to complete remediation, the cleanup levels required, and ultimately, the stabilization technologies selected, will be critical to cleaning up radioactive contamination effectively.
Uncertainties also can remain regarding the extent of contamination at a site, even after the study and remedial design phases have been completed. For example, differences in sources of contamination, soil conditions, hydrogeology, and transport mechanisms make it difficult to completely characterize and understand actual conditions at a site. In fact, the full extent of the cleanup effort may not be known until the remedial action is put in place and the effect on the soil and groundwater is analyzed. Cost-effective remediation, however, will not occur without these studies, nor can resources best be allocated without knowing the extent and location of contamination at Federal facilities. The fact that relative risk assessment information is still generally incomplete and not integrated on a comprehensive site-wide basis, let alone used for cross-site risk comparisons, remains as one of the largest obstacles to cost-effective cleanup at many agencies. An additional impediment to assessing radioactive contamination at DOE sites is the lack of a framework to ensure consistency in relative risk assessment procedures across sites and to permit comparisons among them.
Scientists have known of the harmful effects of radiation upon the human body since the beginning of this century and may have devoted more scientific research to understanding radiation than any other known human carcinogen. From their work, it is clear that high doses of ionizing radiation cause cancer. Yet, questions about the human health effects caused by low doses of radiation (less than 10 rem) remain extremely controversial. Much of the early knowledge was gathered by reviewing overexposure cases of radium dial painters, underground miners, and X-ray therapy patients, in addition to animal studies. Later, studies of atomic blast victims at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, coupled with those of military personnel exposed to atomic bomb testing in the late 1940s and early 1950s, added to our knowledge about the immediate and long-term health effects of radiation. Since most of these cases were the result of exposure to fairly high levels of radiation, they did not produce useable information about prolonged exposure to low levels of radiation the kind of data that would produce the best standards for radiation exposure to the general public. Incorporating these observations of high-dose radiation effects into mathematical models for predicting low-dose effects therefore raises questions about the assumptions that must be made to extrapolate the low-dose health risk.
Only in the last few decades has the accumulation of information for human studies on low-level radiation exposure (such as, individuals exposed to nuclear weapons testing fallout, low doses of radioactive medical procedures, and high radiation background levels) permitted statistically significant sample sizes. These studies have not shown consistent or conclusive evidence of an associated increase in the risk of cancer. Attempts to observe increased cancer in human populations exposed to low doses of radiation have been fraught with difficulty and a lack of clarity. Discerning the risk of low-dose radiation from the risk effects of exposure to other hazardous or toxic substances has not proven easy. It is entirely possible, and indeed many within the radiation health physics area would agree, that this finding is actually supportive of the conclusion that there is no increased risk of cancer from exposure to low levels of radiation. The uncertainty about the risk from low-level exposure has prevented complete agreement about limits on public exposure to radiation.
There are even greater disagreements on the genetic effects of low level radiation exposure -- the effect of parents' exposure to radiation upon their children or grandchildren. The prevailing view is characterized by an intense study of nearly 70,000 off-spring of atomic bomb survivors which failed to identify any increase in genetic effects. Other recent analysis also indicates humans now appear less sensitive to the genetic effects from radiation exposure than previously thought. However, a peer reviewed study published in 1990 reported an association between the risk of childhood cancer and a father's exposure to low-dose radiation among people living near the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Britain. Although not supported by any other similar studies, and itself criticized for its small sample size, the Sellafield study linked fathers' prior exposure to 10 to 100 rem to leukemia among their offspring. This finding, however limited, further illustrates how much controversy remains regarding the health effects of radiation. Another criticism of the available studies concerning radiation exposure is that they focus mainly upon cancer risk, not other potential adverse health effects which may result from the impact of, and interaction between, radioactive contaminants.
Historically, the various Federal agencies with responsibility for developing radionuclide standards, principally EPA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and DOE, have taken different approaches to limiting human exposure to radiation. The science that supports the standards each agency has developed is complex, difficult, and multidisciplinary. It involves conceptual modeling of the interaction of low-level radiation with the surrounding environment and the human body. These limits tend to rely more on assumptions than actual measurement. Agencies have also made different assumptions in their calculations. As a result, estimated risks to the public associated with agency guidelines vary considerably.  EPA and NRC have embarked on rulemakings on residual radioactivity standards, and they have agreed to use the same radiation exposure levels in setting the standards. The EPA standards would apply to DOE and other Federal agencies, while NRC rules would apply to all NRC licensees.
The current lack of consensus regarding the technical assumptions behind radionuclide standards has frequently resulted in overlapping regulation of licensees. In some instances, duplication requires clarification of responsibilities by regulatory agencies and leads to other inefficiencies. An example at DOE facilities is the joint regulation required of source, special nuclear, and byproduct material which is mixed with RCRA-regulated hazardous wastes. RCRA gives EPA or authorized States authority over the hazardous components of the waste while the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) gives DOE authority over the radioactive portions. The distinction between the radioactive and chemical components of the same wastes means that DOE, EPA, and States share authority with a resulting lack of uniformity in standards.
The lack of a unified radiation protection policy also leads to gaps in regulatory coverage. GAO noted in 1993 that several EPA regulations pertaining to the handling of radioactive wastes have been envisioned for years but not implemented, because of problems with legal concerns, coordination, and priority setting among agencies; principally EPA, DOE and OMB. Thus, cleanup requirements are generally established separately for each operable unit undergoing cleanup at a DOE site. For example, DOE and E PA debated for three years over what standards should be used for one operable unit the K-65 silos at DOE's Fernald installation. No standards existed concerning how to manage and dispose of the concentrated uranium ore in the silos, and consequently EPA and DOE staffs required significant time to resolve the issue. Cleanup was delayed and valuable management time was expended inefficiently.
The need for a unified set of land reuse categories and related radionuclide cleanup standards for each reuse category that account for variation in naturally occurring background levels of radiation is urgent. DOE will shortly face a large "wave" of decisions for its cleanup actions, for which it will need information about radionuclide cleanup levels. According to a DOE analysis, approximately 100 preliminary or final restoration decisions will occur in 1996 and 1997. As other studies by the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and even DOE note, unified cleanup standards for radioactive waste would accelerate cleanup efforts at DOE facilities. In summary, apparent delays in promulgating standards impede cost estimation, slow cleanup and prevent public land reuse decisions.
E. The Need to Develop and Implement More
Environmental cleanup is currently limited by existing technology, as well
as regulatory barriers and resistance to adopting new or unproven
technology. Several pilot studies underway at various agencies employ
new technologies that indicate significant
potential for cost-effectiveness. The potential long-term cost savings
from the more rapid development of such innovative technologies may
total in the billions. For example, the NPR concluded that innovative
technologies could save up to 68 percent of the cost of cleanup using
existing technologies. EPA,
in a sample of 17 Records of Decision (RODs) using remedial technologies
tested under the Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation Program
(SITE), projected an
average cost savings of 62 percent for use of innovative treatment
technologies over standard
treatments. The total cost savings for the 17 RODs was projected to be
Extrapolating these projections to the entire cleanup program and given
that SITE has now demonstrated over 80 technologies, the potential
savings are very substantial. DOE estimates that new techniques for
cleaning up soils could potentially save as much as $2 billion at the
Nevada Test Site and that new groundwater cleaning processes could save
Based on the level of ultimate land use at its sites, DOE's Baseline
Environmental Management Report estimates technology can save between
$10 billion and $80 billion from the program's total costs.
The early history of cleanup technology development was not nearly so bright; it yielded few results, despite the promising nature of many of the technologies under development. Participants in a "Workshop on Remediation Techniques" sponsored by the Office of Technology Assessment in 1990 agreed that there was little to show for the preceding ten years of Federal and private sector investment in cleanup technologies (with the exception of in situ vitrification and vapor vacuum extraction). Even fairly recently, the General Accounting Office criticized DOE for "not having a well-coordinated and fully integrated technology development program." The same GAO study concluded that there is inadequate coordination among DOE's R&D organizations and program and project offices. While GAO recognized that DOE has begun to address this problem by formatting five priority focus areas for technology development based on the environmental cleanup program's most pressing needs, it concluded that still further improvements could be made.
The process for obtaining regulatory approval has at times hastened, and at other times lowed, the use of new technologies. The process can require input from regulators, site project mangers, local officials, and contractors. These various parties may have varying degrees of familiarity with the technology, distinctly different views on its acceptability, or different attitudes towards risk. Such differences can create problems in the methodology of technology selection and impede agencies from trying out new technologies. In addition, regulatory approval is hampered by a general lack of credible cost data for current and innovative technologies.
The uncertainty associated with the potential commercialization of new technologies also acts as a disincentive to private capital. Innovative technology companies often lack startup capital to complete the required field demonstrations, a necessary precursor to being awarded contracts of sufficient size to encourage further venture capital investment. As a result, few if any new remediation companies were formed in the last year. Even large firms indicate that the impediments to fast track development of innovative technologies have frequently been too cumbersome to yield the kind of attractive return on investment to warrant developmental funding.
It should also be recognized that there are real limitations to current cleanup technologies, which will, in some cases, require focus and the commitment of significant resources to solve. DOE's mixed waste tanks at Hanford, Washington, are an example of where limited technology exists to address the cleanup problem. In other cases, the technology exists but is extraordinarily expensive in relation to the benefits. Moreover, there are instances where the more commonly used technologies, such as, incineration have become generally unpopular with local stakeholders. Some DOE cleanup problems, such as groundwater contamination, plutonium contamination of soil at Rocky Flats and Mound Plant, uranium processing residues in silos at Fernald, spent nuclear fuel and tanks containing high-level waste at Hanford, buried transuranic waste in Idaho, and mixed waste (hazardous and radioactive) throughout the complex present the most difficult technological challenges to solve in the years ahead. Long-range commitment of time and money to a coherent development of new technologies appears necessary if they are to be brought to the stage at which they can be applied to the problems left behind by weapons production.
A. Principles of Reform.
The efforts to address the many significant problems confronting Federal
facility cleanup must be undertaken within a framework of principles
that guide, inform, and
constrain whatever reforms are needed to improve the efficiency and
credibility of the cleanup effort. Extensive and productive discussions
among Federal agencies, States, communities, and others have identified
a number of the principles that should govern Federal facilities
cleanups, and these are equally
pertinent to the reform effort. For example, the Environmental
Commissioners of the States (ECOS) and FFERDC convened by EPA, have
developed two quite similar sets of
consensus principles. After a process of review and synthesis, the FFPG
has endorsed the following set of principles, each of which is drawn
from either the ECOS or FFERDC
Principles, with modifications indicated in italics.
1. State role. Under our Federal system of government, States have a primary responsibility to protect the environment, health, safety, and well-being of their citizens. Any legislative reforms should recognize this principle.
2. Federal role. The Federal government shares responsibility for protecting the environment, health, safety, and well-being of its citizens, as well as ensuring the appropriate use of Federal resources. This responsibility should not unduly impinge upon the role of States and should include the development of appropriate goals and standards for cleanup and provide resources for States that do not have sufficient capability or expertise to oversee complex facilities. As part of its responsibility, the Federal government must honor its obligation to the citizens of this country to clean up its facilities, manage its wastes properly, and comply with environmental laws to the same extent as private parties.
3. Independent State regulatory oversight is necessary to achieve effective environmental results at Federal facilities. Duplicative oversight should, however, be avoided, and a lead regulator (Federal or State) should be designated whenever possible.
4. Negotiated compliance agreements and regulatory orders provide an effective framework for establishing priorities and reconciling competing interests. Agreements can and should be adapted to changed circumstances by renegotiating commitments, considering risk, technical, fiscal, and other appropriate factors.
5. Efficiency. While maintaining necessary health margins and public health protection, greater efficiency must be achieved in Federal and Stateenvironmental programs, especially in light of current and projected budget constraints.
6. Long-term commitments. A sustained national commitment to cleanup is required to assemble and maintain the resources and wise management necessary to address environmental needs at Federal facilities. In establishing this commitment, policy makers should consider that if important work is deferred, conditions may deteriorate and contamination may spread, increasing risks and the costs to address them.
7. Equity. Congress, Federal agencies, States, and the public must work together to establish treatment, long-term storage, and disposal sites for radioactive wastes and surplus fissile materials in an equitable manner.
8. Integrated planning and response. Integrated planning and response to all environmental obligations should be encouraged, in order to address significant site priorities in a sensible, efficient manner.
9. Public Participation. The adverse impacts of Federal facilities have fallen most heavily on their neighbors. Affected public stakeholders must have meaningful involvement in Federal facility environmental decisions.
10. Environmental Justice. The Federal government has an obligation to make special efforts to identify and address risks related to Federal facility activities in low-income and minority communities that have been disproportionately and adversely affected by exposure to environmental risks. Federal agencies must incorporate the principles of environmental justice, as set forth in Executive Order 12898 (Feb. 24, 1994), into every phase of the cleanup process.
11. The importance of pollution prevention and pollution control activities. Effective pollution prevention and pollution control activities are essential to prevent future environmental cleanup problems. Therefore, in carrying out their mission, Federal agencies should view such activities as a cost of doing business and fully comply with environmental laws and regulations that are designed to accomplish these objectives.
12. The role of future land use determinations in making cleanup decisions. Reasonably anticipated future land uses should be considered when making cleanup decisions of Federal facilities, provided that at the time of any land transfer there are adequate safeguards to protect land holders, those who will receive or lease the land, and surrounding committees. The communities that are affected by Federal facility cleanups, along with their local governing bodies and affected Indian Tribes, should be given a significant role in determining reasonably anticipated future use of Federal property that is expected to be transferred, and in how future use determinations will be used in making cleanup decisions.
13. Cleanup contracting. Federal facility environmental cleanup contracts should be managed as efficiently as possible by using contract mechanisms that specify, measure, and reward desired outcomes and efficiencies rather than simply reimburse for effort or pay for an end product. Federal agencies should strive to ensure that cleanup contracts and employment opportunities benefit local communities, particularly those that are lacking economic resources and have been disadvantaged by contamination. Contractors and agencies responsible for cleanup should work in partnership with local communities to achieve cleanup goals.
14. Consideration of human health risk and other factors in Federal facility environmental cleanup decision making. Human health is an important and well-established factor that should continue to be a primary consideration in Federal facility cleanup decision making, including setting environmental cleanup priorities and enforceable milestones. However:
a) Risk assessment and other analytical tools used to evaluate risks to human health (including non-cancer as well as cancer health effects) all have scientific limitations and require assumptions in their development. As decision aiding tools, risk assessments should only be used in a manner that recognizes those limitations and assumptions. Moreover, risk assessments ought not be used by any party as a basis for unilaterally setting aside legal requirements that embody public health principles and other important societal values.
b) In addition to human health risk, other factors that warrant consideration include:
The Committee believes that fiscal constraints do not justify failing to take actions to protect human health and environment, but may result in a need to set priorities about what cleanup actions can occur in any given year.
15. The need for a systematic approach to decision making and priority setting. Federal facility priority setting decisions should be made in a manner that recognizes their interconnectedness to other environmental problems.
16. The role of studies in the cleanup process. The identification and characterization of contamination and the evaluation of health impacts on human populations are essential parts of the cleanup process. Efforts to streamline the cleanup process should focus on reducing paperwork and moving away from adversarial relations toward cooperation, not the arbitrary capping of funding for studies.
As in other Federal environmental legislation, this bill reaffirmed the mandate that Federal agencies comply with the environmental laws to the same extent as private entities, and preserved the liability of Federal facilities for natural resource damages. But the relief the bill's reforms provided to responsible parties -- both public and private -- had particular importance to Federal facilities.
The most significant of the changes advocated by the Administration were those in remedy selection. The proposed reforms would have established a more efficient remedial decision process and more cost-effective remedy selection criteria, while continuing to require protective and reliable remedies. Under the Administration's approach, risk assessments were made more realistic and the role of costs was elevated. Cleanup levels were set according to the reasonably anticipated future land use at the facility, ensuring a better correlation of cleanup costs and actual cleanup benefits. This reform alone promises significant savings at sites ranging from DOE nuclear weapons facilities, where huge expanses of land may be unusable for the foreseeable future, to DOI and USDA mining sites that are remote from any human habitation. The current statutory preference for permanence and treatment in remedy selection was limited to principal threats or "hot spots," promising additional and significant reductions in the cost of cleanup. The bill reformed the ARARs process by establishing a more rational process for determining "applicable" State laws, and by eliminating from CERCLA "relevant and appropriate requirements" that are not otherwise applied by States to remediation. The bill also encouraged greater use of presumptive remedies and innovative technologies, while reforming the standards governing groundwater cleanup to reduce unnecessary cost. OMB determined that, taken together, these remedy selection reforms could save 20 percent or more of the cost of cleaning up Federal facility sites on the NPL.
There were also a number of provisions in the bill that would have afforded significant relief to USDA and DOI at mining sites requiring cleanup. A new section of the law would have promoted remining, by providing liability protection to those mining operations that had nothing to do with the release of hazardous substances or disposal of hazardous waste, but whose operations could significantly reduce the ultimate costs of cleanup. Other provisions would have ensured that responsible parties would be brought in early to address contamination on Federal lands, rather than requiring the land management agency to automatically treat contaminated sites caused by private mining as a Federal facility. The bill's provisions for State role would have minimized duplicative oversight and, through a program of delegation of regulatory authority at NPL sites to qualified State programs, would have eliminated the major source of redundancy and contention concerning Federal and State roles in the cleanup process. States with corrective action authority under RCRA, comprising more than half the States, would automatically have had the option of assuming EPA's CERCLA authorities at Federal facilities.
The Administration recognized that public acceptance of cleanup standards permitting such significant cost savings would require enhanced public participation in the cleanup process, so that affected communities could have a voice in such fundamental decisions as a site's future land use at a site. Consequently, the bill included expanded and enforceable community participation requirements. These requirements reflected Federal agency leadership in developing effective mechanisms for community participation in the cleanup process, as they were modeled in part on the RABs and SSABs now utilized by DOD and DOE, respectively. There was also recognition that the proposed reforms had to be applied with greater care in those communities that might be subject to multiple risks from a variety of sources, such as low income and minority communities that suffered disproportionate and adverse exposure to environmental risks.
While the prospects of Superfund reform in this session of Congress appear remote, reforms like those described here are the fundamental building blocks of any effort to reform the Superfund program without diminishing of human health and the environment. They are also fundamental elements of any effort to reduce the costs of Federal facility cleanups under Superfund. The Administration will continue to press for these and other elements of its CERCLA reform agenda in any legislation that is proposed.
For example, there was general agreement among those participating in the process that RCRA treatment of contaminated media should be reformed, either through legislation or regulation, so that standards promulgated for high-risk industrial wastes will not govern low-risk cleanup wastes. There was also significant attention to proposals to improve integration of RCRA with other environmental statutes, to expand the circumstances under which EPA could rely on management standards in lieu of RCRA regulation, and proposals to provide general permitting of identical f acilities. All of these proposals have the potential to provide significant cost savings for Federal facilities.
C. Administrative and Regulatory Reform.
Soon after the 103rd Congress adjourned without enacting the Administration's Superfund
reform bill, EPA announced a series of reforms to begin implementing as many
of the proposals in the bill as current law permits, and has sought corresponding reforms
to RCRA where appropriate. These reform efforts by EPA are ongoing, and are
assuming more importance for Federal facilities as the prospects for Superfund
reform in this calendar year become increasingly uncertain.
Previously, future land use was not uniformly considered in developing comprehensive cleanup strategies for Federal facilities, even though it may be the single most important determinant of cleanup costs. Indeed, alternative land use scenarios (under current law and using existing technologies) can affect the estimated cost of cleanup as much as twofold. An example from DOE highlights the significance and potential savings for Federal facilities associated with EPA's reform. At Fernald, the future land use initially projected by remedial planners included potential use of the site as a residential and agricultural area, requiring that large quantities of soil be removed and disposed of off-site. The Fernald Citizens Advisory Group evaluated alternative land-use options, including industrial and recreational uses. The group ultimately recommended land uses with fewer potential pathways for human exposure to contamination. This allowed cleanup plans to include less removal of contaminated soil, even as the prime sources of groundwater contamination were removed. This reduced the life-cycle cleanup costs by approximately $1 billion.
Consistent with this approach, and to provide both transparency and discipline to the role f cost in cleanup decisionmaking, EPA and other Federal agencies have agreed to develop a standard format for a concise summary of site risks, the costs of cleanup alternatives, the relative cost-effectiveness of cleanup alternatives, and the anticipated benefits of each cleanup alternative. Once developed, this summary would be required for major cleanup decisions at both Federal and non-Federal facilities. In these summaries, the discussion of costs and identification of benefits would incorporate the methodology and limitations of Executive Order 12866: statutory standards would not be changed; benefits could be described qualitatively rather than quantitatively; and unquantifiable benefits related to significant policy concerns (such as community preferences, natural resource damage concerns, State policies, or environmental justice) could be invoked to justify more protective cleanup levels and more costly cleanup alternatives. As this summary is developed, agencies will be exploring ways in which a more expanded use of site-specif ic cost-effectiveness analysis could be undertaken at facilities without unduly slowing the pace of cleanup.
To ensure that this mechanism yields more attention to the role of cost and greater consistency in cleanup decisionmaking, EPA is bolstering this approach with additional guidance to its regions. EPA will issue new directives: 1) requiring consistency in application of national policies, especially with respect to consideration of fut ure land use, groundwater, and presumptive remedies; 2) highlighting the role of cost and cost-effectiveness in remedy selection, making clear that cost-effectiveness is a screening mechanism in selecting remedies and that inordinately costly remedies are to be avoided; and 3) acknowledging that the statutory mandate for establishing that cost-effectiveness is on an equal footing with the mandate to use permanence and treatment to the maximum extent practicable, in selecting remedies.
Concurrently, EPA is working with Federal agencies on a cooperative basis to develop management tools that provide better implementation of these directives. EPA is committed to the development of cost effectiveness measures or "rules of thumb" that will provide objective criteria for identifying and providing closer scrutiny of inordinately costly cleanup choices. EPA is also working with other Federal agencies to ensure that the risk analysis and any risk summary takes into account any significant or unusual risks to workers or to natural resources that may be attributable to cleanup activity. Thus, where risk to cleanup workers dealing with highly radioactive waste may far exceed the risk reduction associated with a cleanup alternative, that information will be available to the cleanup decisionmakers. Similarly, when a cleanup activity may itself injure natural resources, that information will also be taken into account, so that all environmental risks are evaluated when weighing alternatives.
There are a number of other opportunities in which EPA, in consultation with affected Federal agencies, plans to increase flexibility, encourage consistency, and reduce the costs of its cleanup programs. Through the Hazardous Waste Identification Rule (HWIR) rule for media, EPA could establish broad exemption standards for low-risk contaminated media, as well as an expedited permitting process and more flexible management standards for higher-toxicity media. In a forthcoming HWIR rule for process waste, EPA could consider higher residual standards for disposal at facilities regulated by the AEA. Any of these changes could generate significant cost savings at DOD and DOE facilities.
In addition, beginning with an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) scheduled for September 1995, fundamental changes to the corrective action under RCRA, will be pursued. These changes will be intended to ensure protective standards while reducing cost, minimizing regulatory "command and control," increasing consistency, and reducing compartmentalization. EPA's goal is to incorporate proposed legislative, regulatory, and administrative reforms to CERCLA to the maximum extent permitted by statute and to encourage use of the ANPRM as a guidance while the rulemaking is pending.
Of particular significance for DOE, EPA also plans to complete, in this calendar year, several actions to resolve issues surrounding radiological waste cleanup. Specifically, EPA plans to publish much-needed cleanup standards on radionuclides, removing a substantial source of uncertainty for many DOE cleanups. The absence of these standards and guidance now generates enormous uncertainty for DOE.
While the preceding reforms are directed in equal measure to responsible parties in both the public and private sectors, EPA is striving to improve communication among Federal facility agencies and both their State and Federal regulators. For its part, EPA has begun a series of regular meetings with Federal agencies to identify and address, on a timely basis, disagreements on cleanup issues. This process should improve the remedy selection process. As part of this effort, EPA is engaging in greater consultation with Federal facilities on each of its implementation plans for administrative reforms.
These improvements will help facilitate more extensive use of risk-based priority-setting among Federal agencies, helping to assure the optimal use of increasingly limited Federal resources for Federal facilities cleanup. DOD and DOE are both using the three-tier categorization of site activities described in Chapter 4, in which site activities are identified according to whether they address low, medium, or high risk. Both departments are in the process of setting priorities among the facilities in their portfolio and among specific remedial activities across sites. Initial work has tended to confirm that budgetary resources are primarily devoted to the hig hest-risk sites, but there remains significant room for improvement.
The analysis in Chapter 4 describes circumstances that led to the negotiation of some IAGs with milestones that may need to be revised in light of improved information about sites, better understanding about risks and priorities, and unanticipated changes in appropriated funds. Federal agencies and Federal and State regulators must work together to more effectively resolve priority-setting issues. Decisions may result in funds being shifted, in the short term, from one site to another presenting greater risks. There must be continued willingness to exercise forbearance in enforcement where a milestone cannot be met due to lack of appropriated funding, and to make maximum use of the flexibility available in the IAG process for revising milestones.
In order for Federal agencies to approach the IAG issue in the spirit of the reform principles presented here, and for Federal and State regulators to consider these issues in a cooperative and constructive spirit, a number of principles for the IAG process should be articulated:
Ideally, a dialogue between Federal facilities and their Federal and State regulators according to these principles will foster acceptance of IAG and milestone modifications. Any such modifications should implement a cleanup strategy to address the most urgent sites first and then: (1) clean up what is technically straight forward or "easy"; (2) stabilize what cannot be cleaned up in the near term; (3) prioritize cleanup based on risk and availability of technical solutions; and (4) focus on what will get land back into public use and reduce overhead costs.
D. Management Reform.
DOE has budgeted 20 percent in management savings to be realized through efficiency
gains, in addition to the already substantial efficiency gains that have been achieved by eliminating historic inefficiencies. Further and dramatic reforms in the areas of
contracting methods and management, and the internal management of the agency, are necessary. Some of these initiatives may prove useful for cleanup programs in other departments. Other management initiatives that would improve the cleanup process inclu
de: improving information systems to help program managers do better strategic planning, budgeting and oversight; improving strategic planning and oversight at agency headquarters; and moving to privatize whenever cost-effective.
As an integral part of its Reinventing Government (REGO) strategy, DOE plans to achieve $4.4 billion in outlay savings from the Environmental Management (EM) program over the next five years, FY 1996 to FY 2000. This savings commitment is very aggressive and will require substantial changes to the way the EM program is run. The Department is considering a comprehensive and far-reaching set of initiatives, including but not limited to efficiency and productivity improvements, to achieving these savings. The measures include:
1. Contract reforms, contract management oversight and other internal management reforms.
2. Specific priorities.
3. New approaches.
DOE has developed effective new technologies for some of its more conventional contamination problems. Vapor vacuum extraction, a process whereby volatile organic contaminants are extracted from soil by pumping and suctioning shallow underground wells, has been successfully tested at Savannah River and Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. Another RTDF technology, Lasagna,TM developed through a consortium of Monsanto, E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Inc (DuPont) and GE, with participation from EPA and DOE, and facilitated by Clean Sites, Inc. under a cooperative agreement with EPA's Technology Innovation Office, is already entering the site demonstration phase at the DOE Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah, Kentucky. In this technology, electro-osmosis is combined with treatment zones (sorbents, catalytic agents, microbes, oxidents, etc.) created by hydrofracturing or pneumatic fracturing of the soil to electrically force migration of water to flush contaminants from the soil into the treatment zones for s tabilization or removal.
Some DOE cleanup problems, such as groundwater contamination, plutonium contamination of soil at Rocky Flats and Mound Plant, uranium processing residues in silos at Fernald, tanks containing high-level waste at Hanford, and buried transuranic waste in Idaho, will be the most difficult technological challenges to solve in the years ahead. Since the radiological half-lives of many of DOE's wastes are measured in years, centuries or millennia, new cleanup technologies for DOE must focus on stabilizing the waste for timeframes so far into the future that assessing the new technology's effectiveness becomes much more problematic. Long-range commitment of time and money to development of new technologies appears necessary if the y are to be brought to the stage at which they can be applied to the problems left behind by weapons production.
There are ancillary benefits of this and other "green" technologies. Reclamation of some metals may be made from plant ash resulting from phytoremediation which reduces generation of new heavy metal waste and generates recycling revenues. More distantly on the horizon, it may be possible to combine bioengineering and phytoremediation technologies to develop crops for feed that will prevent the accumulation of pollutants and toxins through the food cycle. This discussion is meant to highlight just one of many types of innovative technologies applicable to Federal facility cleanup that is both cost-effective and in keeping with the strategic vision to encourage environmental technologies for a sustainable future. Adding the USDA to the Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable (FRTR) would help elevate the profile of these green technologies and bring a new set of experts into the information sharing process.
Efforts like those taken at DOE in creating a new management system for its technology development program are significant steps in adopting the "Sustainable Future" strategic vision to the problems of Federal cleanup. DOE's new system for technology development designates five priority or "focus areas;" 1) mixed waste characterization, treatment, and disposal; 2) radioactive tank waste remediation; 3) contaminant plume containment and remediation; 4) landfill stabilization; and 5) facility transitioning, decommissioning, and final disposition.
The program also pursues crosscutting and supporting technology areas such as characterization, efficient separations and processing, robotics, and technology transfer. DOE's focus areas provide for stronger ties between technology developers and environmental management users, as well as stakeholders. DOE has identified a site champion for each focus area and provides those sites the resources to implement the program throughout the nuclear weapons complex. The focus a rea concept enables more effective use of DOE-wide environmental research and technology development, including National Laboratories, to build on successive demonstrations of technologies. This site-lead structure also tries to give sites incentives to pursue technology demonstrations at their site, overcoming typical site and regulator hesitation at being the first to demonstrate a technology, thus taking on the greatest risk for failure.
To guide its technology development decisions, DOE now uses a Technology Investment Decision Model to track technology maturation: from basic and applied research; through exploratory, advanced, and engineering development; to demonstration and implementation. DOE has developed decision criteria to guide decisions at each of these stages. These include response to user-defined problems, success at solving the problems for which they are being developed, protection of user/public safety and health, commercial market potential, public stakeholder acceptance, regulatory acceptance, and legal protection of intellectual property rights.
Other agencies are implementing similar programmatic reforms which adapt national environmental strategy to their Federal cleanup challenge. Better allocation of scarce R&D funding should result. Roundtable discussions, similar to the December 1994 White House Conference for all environmental technologies, could be held regularly to guide development of innovative remediation technologies. Led by the National Science Technology Council (NSTC), the progress of groups like the FRTR and RTDF could be both elevated and coordinated to ensure inter-departmental synergy is maximized via a cohesive strategy. Between semi-annual discussions, the efficient sharing of innovative technology information among agencies and other stakeholders through roundtable like the FRTR can maintain the cross-fertilization of ideas and the link between agencies' technology strategies.
One effort in this area has been undertaken jointly by Federal agencies and States in the Western Governors' Association Interstate Technology and Regulatory Cooperation (ITRC) Work Group. This group is developing test and demonstration protocols for interstate acceptance of the results of innovative technologies. This approach would leverage the scarce dollars available for demonstration of innov ative technologies by allowing the results to be acceptable to a number of States besides the one hosting the demonstration. A recently signed Memorandum of Understanding among California, Massachusetts, Illinois, and New Jersey represents a major step toward interstate cooperation. Agencies working together will move down the learning curve for a given technology much more rapidly. The hoped-for result will be a dramatic reduction of Federal costs for proving and implementing innovative cleanup technologies.
Several interagency groups have been formed to foster communication among Federal agencies and the public on innovative technologies, including:
In addition, individual agencies have created their own formal mechanisms to bring environmental professionals together to share experiences, exchange information and establish cooperative efforts. For example, EPA has created both the National Advisory Committee for Environmental Policy and Technology and the Bioremediation Action Committee. EPA has also developed systems to assemble, maintain, and disseminate data on innovative technologies, such as its GIS/KeyTM Environmental Data Management System and Vendor Information System for Innovative Treatment Technologies. Agencies also coordinate with private industry on mutual cleanup concerns. For example, DOE has partnered with both Dow and DuPont chemical companies in developing bioremediation systems and silicon barriers.
Communication and coordination within agencies is also important. A recent GAO study concluded there is not adequate coordination among DOE's R&D organizations and program and project offices. While GAO recognized that DOE has begun to address this problem by formatting five priority focus areas for technology development based on the environmental cleanup program's most pressing needs. It still concluded that further improvements could be made. Two extant assists are EPA's Cleanup Information Bulletin Board System (CLU-IN) and the Alternative Treatment Technology Information Center (ATTIC), electronic information clearinghouses on innovative treatment technologies, which can foster both intra-agency as well as interagency knowledge sharing.
Joint testing is another important element of technology coordination. Importantly, many of the most promising and rapidly commercialized innovative technologies have been the result of such joint interagency testing. The in-situ bioremediation technology program at Dover Air Force Base, mentioned earlier in this section, exemplifies how joint testing can accelerate movement of all departmental programs down the remediation technology learning curve. Another is a recent Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) at McClellan Air Force Base in California, which created a partnership among the Air Force, EPA, the State and several private companies to test new technologies for solvent remediation. These initiatives, as well as the Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation, DOIT, and National Environmental Test Site programs, highlight the Federal government's commitment to finding and using Federal facilities to jointly test technologies.
F. Budget Process Reform.
As Federal resources to meet all national needs become more constrained,
public awareness of the important contribution made by the Federal budget process
in setting priorities for Federal facilities cleanup and in governing the pace
of their accomplishment has grown. Along with self-imposed desires for continuing program improvement, national fiscal conditions are forcing agencies to prioritize their cleanup efforts within and across sites according to better evaluation of alternat
ive future land uses, estimates of risk, evaluations of available technologies, and analyses of the relative
costs and benefits of alternative approaches to cleanup. Negotiated cleanup
agreements should continue to play an important role in the Federal agency
cleanup program, but more flexible agreement structures are needed to help ensure
that limited resources are used as wisely as possible. In order to ensure that the limited Federal
resources available to protect public health and safety and the environment are
used as wisely as possible, agreements should recognize the need to address the
most urgent risks first, incorporate these more rigorous methods of establishing
cleanup priorities, and be capable of ready adaptation to new information,
budget constraints, and changing circumstances. These kinds of negotiations
will obviously be difficult, but they are critical if the Nation is to come to
grips with the dilemma posed by limited resources and the extraordinary costs of
addressing this problem. In addition, the Federal budget process should continue to pressure agencies to implement management reforms that will reduce costs of operations. For
example, cost savings include; speeding the adoption of cost-saving technologies, using more cost-effective contracting methods, adopting best practices for other agencies and the private
sector, streamlining management structures and processes, and eliminating unnecessary overhead. Systematic introduction and evaluation of performance measures in the budget process can facilitate accomplishment of this goal.
More stable funding of Federal agency cleanup programs can help ensure that cost-effective cleanup programs focused on risk reduction are implemented. When funding levels vary widely from year to year, Federal agencies cannot conduct efficient efforts that maximize the taxpayers' return on investment. Finally, if the process is to work, all stakeholders must be informed about and have meaningful opportunity for input into key decision-making processes.