Earlier this week, Scott Pruitt released the results of the Superfund Task Force he established in May. Though skeptical, I was pleased at the creation of the task force and goals he established for it. With the release of the report, my skepticism has returned.
First, the report and Pruitt’s memo about it repeat the claptrap about restoring “the Superfund program to its rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission.” Since he keeps repeating that statement, I have to keep repeating that, every time EPA – or the private sector – looks at the top environmental risks, Superfund doesn’t even make the list. This time, Pruitt goes further, stating that:
I ask myself every day, what could be more important, more ‘core’ than giving Americans the ability to use the land they are blessed with.
And I answer, “What about the air we breathe and the water we drink?” It’s harder to avoid breathing the air and drinking the water than using any particular piece of land. That’s why we have institutional controls to restrict land use, but not institutional controls to prevent breathing of contaminated air. The skeptical part of my brain is now telling me that this Task Force and putting Superfund at the core of EPA’s mission are just a way for Pruitt to pursue his deregulatory agenda for air and water while still claiming that he’s a real environmentalist.
On the merits, the report has some good ideas, but it’s pretty much a mishmash, many of the pieces of which are internally inconsistent. I’d be shocked at this point if anything meaningful results.
Remember, I represent the regulated community. I’d love to see Superfund reformed. I’d particularly like to see the recommendations for reducing oversight costs implemented. The government should be embarrassed that it regularly incurs more in oversight costs than PRPs incur in actually performing cleanups.
I just don’t see much prospect for success for a reform initiative when the real purpose of the initiative appears to be to use Superfund as a fig leaf to cover the widespread roll-back of important regulations in other areas.