EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., is the locus of political-economic conflict over the direction and achievements of Superfund implementation. EPA regional offices are the locus of conflict over implementation at the site- specific level. Authority runs from Washington to the regions; accomplishments run from the regions to Washington. The more successful are the regions, the closer EPA comes to meeting its cleanup goals. There is variation across regional offices in their implementation of the Superfund mandate and in their corresponding accomplishments that in turn contribute substantially to Superfund progress at the national level.
Cleanup at Superfund sites is an outcome of decisions made by EPA headquarters and the regional offices in conjunction with decisions made by the states, affected communities, and responsible parties. Once a site is added to the National Priorities List, the region applies agency guidance to determine where lead responsibility for cleanup will reside. As discussed in more detail below, if no responsible parties are identified, lead responsibility is placed in the region's fund program and cleanup is financed out of the fund. If responsible parties are identified, lead responsibility is either placed in the region's enforcement program or delegated to a state enforcement program. Once lead responsibility is determined, the site proceeds through a number of stages outlined in the National Contingency Plan and elaborated upon in agency guidance documents: site conditions are investigated and the feasibility of alternative remedies are evaluated; a remedy is designed and implemented.
Cleanup decisions proceed under legislative and agency guidance on how clean is clean. Appropriate cleanup standards are selected and feasible remedies are examined that satisfy these standards. The role of cost considerations