United States Environmental
                                 Protection Agency
                                            Office of Policy
September 2013
           Evaluating  the  Effectiveness  and
           Efficiency of  Region  2's  RCRA
           Corrective Action  Program
 Fact Sheet

For more information on
completed evaluations at
EPA or the Evaluation
Support Division, visit the
above link.
    Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), EPA administers the
     Corrective Action program, which requires regulated facilities to investigate and clean up
     contamination of hazardous waste resulting from current and past practices at the sites.
    EPA Region 2 manages a universe of 674 Corrective Action facilities, including 332
     facilities that are tracked under the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA).
     This evaluation focuses primarily on the 332 facilities in the "GPRA 2020" universe,
     including: 174 facilities in New York, 106 facilities in New Jersey, 51 facilities in Puerto
     Rico, and one facility in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
    Work may be implemented as federal lead or with state agencies, depending on state
     authorization status. New York is fully authorized to implement the program, New
     Jersey is not authorized but has a work sharing agreement with EPA, and Puerto Rico
     and the U.S. Virgin Islands are not authorized and EPA implements the program directly
     in these jurisdictions.
    EPA Region 2 initiated this evaluation to study the efficiency and effectiveness of the
     Region's RCRA Corrective Action program and identify improvement opportunities.

Evaluation Questions
    The evaluation explored seven questions in the following six areas:
       o   Timeliness of remedy decisions, efficiency of federally-managed vs. state-
          managed sites, accountability to project schedules, and actions available under
          current authorities and resources that could accelerate the process.
       o   Adequacy of resources to support the program, and the effectiveness of resource
       o   Potential to use administrative orders and other enforcement actions to prevent
          delays or non-compliance.
       o   Benchmarking of Region 2's program with other EPA regions.
       o   Environmental stringency of interim and final remedy decisions.
       o   Effectiveness of public participation, and any changes the Region could implement
          to improve communication with external stakeholders, including stakeholders in
          communities with high-profile sites and environmental justice communities.

Evaluation Methods
    Conducted interviews with over 60 Corrective Action stakeholders to understand views
     on efficiency and effectiveness and opportunities to strengthen the program.
    Reviewed the central project files for 20 selected Corrective Action sites to assess
     delays, the Agency's consideration of proposed remedies, and  public participation.
    Analyzed site progress and achievement of key milestones in RCRAInfo; conducted
     statistical analyses of the data to understand differences between federally-managed vs.
     state-managed sites, duration of key phases, and characteristics associated with delays.
    Reviewed national and  regional budget data to assess resource adequacy and the
     effectiveness of resource allocation in Region 2.
    Participated in the Corrective Action Lean Event for Regions 3 and 7  (February 2013),
     and analyzed additional benchmarking data for the 10 EPA regions.
    Updated the RCRA Corrective Action process  map to identify site management priorities
     and causes of delays.

Key Findings and Conclusions
     While stakeholders agree that many sites take longer to remediate than would be ideal, the
      evaluation did not identify any systematic or structural elements of the Region 2 program that
      appear to cause delays across sites. Reasons for delays include: the delegated structure of the program and
      EPA's oversight role, which limits EPA's direct influence over many state-lead sites; EPA's historical emphasis on
      solid waste management units and localized cleanups rather than site-wide remediation; patterns of delays
      resulting from old permit language or long-established  relationships among facilities, states, and EPA, where EPA is
      strictly in an oversight role; and competing management priorities (e.g., timely cleanup decisions vs. environmental
      stringency). The Corrective Action process and  site progress are broadly similar at the federal and state level. In all
      cases, meaningful, well-targeted metrics and goals, including GPRA goals, seem to motivate progress at sites.
     Resources are not adequate to support the full range of management priorities outlined in EPA
      guidance, GPRA requirements, and as described by staff in interviews. Extensive resources are needed to
      ensure progress across multiple and sometimes conflicting priorities for site remediation, such as rapid site
      completion, meaningful public involvement, and effective working  relationships that recognize state authority.
      Instead, Region 2's  budget allocation for the RCRA Corrective Action program is declining, which mirrors the
      budget situation nationwide. The overall budget situation requires Region 2 to develop and  communicate clear
      management priorities that may not address all policy objectives with the same level of urgency at every site.
     Enforcement has traditionally been a lower management priority for Region 2's RCRA Corrective
      Action program than negotiated approaches. This is due in part to historical management decisions, in part
      to Region 2's structure in which enforcement is separate from the  permitting function of RCRA, and in part to the
      structure of the RCRA statute itself and EPA guidance, which has traditionally emphasized permitting and
      negotiation. In addition, the delegated structure of the  RCRA program has meant that New  Jersey and New York
      have traditionally taken the lead on enforcement for many sites. As a result, EPA Region 2 does not have an
      integrated "enforcement culture" in its RCRA program. The evaluation findings suggest that an emphasis on
      enforcement  might in some cases be appropriate for certain sites.
     Region 2's RCRA Corrective Action program is not notably different from programs in other regions.
      Rates of progress at sites in the Region 2 RCRA Corrective Action program are similar to those in other regions,
      and in general, the region is near the center of the distribution in terms of the number and  characteristics of
      Corrective Action sites.
     Region 2's selection of interim and final remedies does not appear to be a "rubber-stamping"
      exercise. Overall, we could find no information that suggests that the Region is not thoroughly considering the
      remediation options and alternatives presented by the facilities, but in some cases it is possible that resource
      constraints may affect the quality of EPA review.
     Stakeholders generally feel that RCRA Corrective Action sites would benefit from more meaningful
      public participation opportunities. While the RCRA statute and policy require formal public meetings only when
      taking a permit action or at the final remedy selection stage, many stakeholders noted that  additional, "two-way"
      public participation opportunities are necessary for the  effective management of the sites. Notably,  third-party
      respondents, even when dissatisfied, appear to prefer to work with EPA than with state agencies and facilities, who
      often have lead roles in public outreach.

     Define management's highest priorities for every site, and focus resources and metrics accordingly.
     Build on existing efforts and momentum in states and other regions to optimize resource use.
     Encourage efficient site completion by adopting a long-term strategy for Corrective Action sites that emphasizes
      site-wide progress rather than process-based milestones.
     Enhance enforcement capabilities to support appropriate use of enforcement authority at sites that  EPA and states
      identify as strong  candidates for federal enforcement.
     At sites with strong  public interest or potentially high impact, strengthen opportunities for meaningful, two-way
      public participation earlier in the process.

     John Heffelfinger, EPA Evaluation  Support Division,  heffelfinger.iohn@epa.gov
     Ariel Iglesias, EPA Region 2, iglesias.ariel@eDa.Qov: Adolph Everett,  EPA Region 2, everett.adolDh@eDa.aov

Report Link: http://www.epa.gov/evaluate/

Date Completed: September 2013