Superfund work touted by Trump EPA was done years ago

January 6, 2018 GMT

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency is touting cleanups at seven of the nation’s most polluted places as a signature accomplishment in the Trump administration’s effort to reduce the number of Superfund sites, even though records show the physical work was completed before President Donald Trump took office.

The agency this week credited the leadership of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt with tripling the number of sites fully or partially removed from the Superfund’s National Priorities List in 2017, compared with the two sites taken off in the Obama administration’s last year.

“We have made it a priority to get these sites cleaned up faster and in the right way,” Pruitt said.

He said that with the agency’s moves to create a task force and make those responsible for contamination pay for cleanup, “the Superfund program is carrying out the agency’s mission of protecting human health and the environment more every day.”

Cleanups of Superfund sites usually take decades, spanning presidential administrations. An analysis of EPA records by the Associated Press shows that overall the seven Superfund sites delisted last year fell short of the average pace set under the administrations of Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

All told, EPA averaged delisting more than 10 sites a year under the eight years Obama was in the White House. EPA under Bush delisted nearly 18 sites on average annually during his two terms.

Still, the EPA said Pruitt’s initiatives had resulted in “significant improvement.”

EPA declined to provide details of procedural changes under Pruitt that led to the seven sites being delisted faster.

A former EPA official said the agency’s work was underway before Pruitt acted.

“The agency was already doing what’s in the task force report,” said Phyllis Anderson, former associate director of the EPA division that manages Superfund cleanups. She retired in 2013 after 30 years at the agency, serving in Republican and Democratic administrations.