Over the past five decades, the U.S. government has enacted laws and developed regulations to respond to actual and threatened releases of hazardous substances. This article describes a relatively understudied component of the nation's response capability: the Superfund Emergency Response and Removal Program. This program addresses a wide range of threats, complicating efforts to assess its net benefits. We examine a new dataset of 113 recent removal actions at 88 sites in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region and find a great deal of diversity across sites, from the causes of contamination to the types of risks and the cleanup strategy. Contamination most frequently resulted from improper disposal, handling, or storage of materials. Soil, air, groundwater, and surface water contamination were prevalent at these sites, but risks from not yet released contained contaminants and potential fire or explosion were also common. We describe the involvement of potentially responsible parties and examine EPA expenditures on removal actions. Finally, we consider challenges for future research into the net benefits of the program. (JEL: H1, Q5) Copyright 2012, Oxford University Press.
Volume (Year): 6 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 (July)
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