Cleaning Up the Mess: Implementation Strategies in Superfund / Edition 1

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The federal Superfund program for cleaning up America's inactive toxic waste sites is noteworthy not only for its enormous cost-- $15.2 billion has been authorized thus far--but also for its unique design.
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Editorial Reviews

An in-depth study of Superfund operations at hazardous waste sites. In order to find out "what works," the authors examine six Superfund cleanups, including three regions and both "hard" and "easy" sites. They describe various strategies that have been employed by government regulators and the responses to those different strategies by business and local government officials. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Rosemany O'Leary
In CLEANING UP THE MESS: IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES IN SUPERFUND, Thomas W. Church and Robert T. Nakamura investigate and analyze the strategies of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to foster cleanup of hazardous waste sites. The book is a series of case studies with subsequent analysis of "the nitty-gritty" of Superfund decision making. The implementation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund or CERCLA) is described and advice is given as to how the program might be implemented more effectively. Chapter one sets the stage by explaining the statutory framework of the Superfund statute. The competing implementation strategies of coercion, cooperation, and the "public works" approach (i.e., cleaning up the sites) are overviewed. The authors' case study approach is explained. In Chapter Two, Church and Nakamura discuss Superfund's well known statutory tools, such as strict liability, joint and several liability and retroactive application. Actual implementation strategies are described. Four objectives of the Superfund program are outlined: application of an appropriate remedy; minimum cost to taxpayers, expeditious cleanup of sites; and minimum transaction costs. The next three chapters present case studies of the challenges of implementing Superfund. The authors deftly describe the cases, neatly organized into prosecution, accommodation and public works categories. Assessments of each strategy follow the case studies. The sixth chapter examines "lessons learned" from the case studies with the intent of illuminating what works and what doesn't work in Superfund implementation. To their credit, the authors emphasize that to truly understand Superfund implementation, the reader must clearly understand the turbulent "environment" in which the EPA operates. Examples of sources of constraints include the courts, Congress, the budget, and clashing bureaucratic and political imperatives. Examples of lessons learned, roughly paraphrased, include (1) there are trade-offs among strategies; (2) not all costs and risks associated with cleanups will be borne by private parties; (3) it may be possible in some situations to create a win-win agreement among parties; and (4) each remedy should be site specific. The authors close the book by presenting their "ruminations on reform" which include such ideas as creating conditions favorable to boundary spanning Page 19 follows: among organizations, alternative dispute resolution, creating a new government organization, and modifying incentives, including how we measure Superfund success. Prescriptions for successful privatization of Superfund cleanups are presented, including: considering transaction costs; recognizing how privatization ties the hands of the EPA; developing realistic solutions; promoting government actions that will be perceived as reasonable (because those perceived as unreasonable may prompt resistance). The book is well written and interesting to read. The thesis is clearly stated and developed. To their credit, the authors make clear the limits of their methodology and hence the limits of their analyses. The use of evidence and documentation to back up assertions and conclusions is a particularly strong feature of the book. The book is logically organized. The book would be an excellent text in introductory courses concerning policy implementation, environmental policy and environmental law. It also would be useful for elected officials trying to understand the basics of the Superfund act and program. Finally, the book would be useful for beginning lawyers with little knowledge or experience concerning the intricacies of hazardous waste cleanup. The only shortcoming of the book (which is also a strength) is its simplicity. The authors do not assume that the reader has any knowledge of environmental policy, basic economics, or "Government 101." For example, they go to great lengths to explain concepts such as market failure (p. 17), and the limits of privatization (p. 169). In addition, Church and Nakamura put in writing what most people with some experience in the field already know. The crazy Superfund implementation stories that fuel this work, for example, are the subject of conversation at every American Bar Association convention. Nonetheless, CLEANING UP THE MESS is a fine contribution to the literature. I would not hesitate to use it in my graduate and undergraduate classes. It is especially a "must read" for our newly elected congresspersons interested in responsible government change.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815714132
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1993
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Lexile: 1540L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas W. Church is a professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy of the State University of New York at Albany. He has published published extensively on environmental policy, court reform, and the nexus of law and policy. Robert T. Nakamura is a professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy of the State University of New York at Albany. His research has focused on environmental policy and policy implementation.

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Program Design
1 Introduction 3
Statutory Framework 4
Competing Strategies for Superfund Implementation 8
A Case Study Approach to Superfund 13
2 Superfund's Tool Kit 17
Policy Tools 18
Implementation Strategies in Superfund 21
Goals 35
Pt. 2 Case Studies
3 Prosecution 43
Regional Characteristics and Strategic Choices 43
Laskin Poplar 47
Cliffs Dow 59
Assessing the Prosecution Strategy 64
4 Accommodation 67
Regional Characteristics and Strategic Choices 67
Tybouts Corner Landfill 71
Harvey and Knott Drum 84
Assessing the Accommodation Strategy 93
5 Public Works 95
Regional Characteristics and Strategic Choices 96
Lee's Lane Landfill 100
Davis Farm 107
Assessing the Public Works Strategy 112
Pt. 3 Cleaning Up the Mess
6 What Works? 117
Examining the Approaches 119
Lessons 135
7 Ruminations on Reform 143
The Complexity of Joint Action 146
Superfund's Liability System 162
Conclusion: Homilies from Superfund on "Making Privatization Work" 168
Glossary 173
Notes 177
Index 205
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