Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, United States

Source: Crs


The Superfund hazardous substance cleanup program was created by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA, P.L. 96-510, enacted December 11, 1980). It was enlarged and reauthorized by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA, P.L. 99-499). CERCLA was enacted as a result of a major environmental disaster that began in the 1920s but only became a significant public issue in the late 1970's after public attention focused on the community named Love Canal.

Love Canal, New York, was the site of an aborted canal between the upper and lower Niagra Rivers on the eastern edge Niagara Falls. In the 1920's the ditch that remained was used as a municipal and industrial chemical dumpsite. In 1953, the owner of the site, Hooker Chemicals and Plastics covered the site and its hazardous wastes with earth and sold the land to the city for one dollar. By the late 1950s, the site was transformed into a fairly average new community; about 100 homes and a school were built.

In August of 1978, after a period of heavy rain, numerous chemicals, some of which were suspected carcinogens, began leaching from the ground into the community.

Chemicals in alarming concentrations were found in people’s homes, backyards, and playgrounds. Residents suffered immediate effects such as lesions and burns as well as chronic effects such as leukemia and birth defects. After the situation at Love Canal was publicized, action was taken at both the local and national level, including the appropriation of emergency funds to aid the Love Canal residents.

While Congress had passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in 1976 to govern how hazardous wastes were to be treated, stored, and disposed of in order to minimize the present and future threat to human health and the environment, that law did not address prior activities or abandoned contaminated sites. Therefore, federal, state, and local authorities did not have guidelines for addressing or cleaning up properties contaminated by hazardous substances.

On December 11, 1980, US Congress enacted The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, commonly referred to as CERCLA or ‘Superfund’. CERCLA was intended to provide the means to identify responsible parties, fund the cleanup of impacted sites under the "polluter pays principle", and diminish the dangers of hazardous waste sites that create significant risk to public health and the environment.

CERCLA established a US$1.6 billion fund over five years compensated by taxes from chemical and petroleum industries. The mandate authorized short-term removals and long-term response actions and plans. One example is the National Priorities List that guides the EPA in determining sites with known or threatened releases of hazardous materials or contaminants.

On October 17, 1986, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) amended CERCLA by making numerous changes and expanding the scope of the Superfund program.

CERCLA, as amended, is codified as 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675. The law’s taxing authority was extended through December 31, 1995, by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 (OBRA, P.L. 101-508). The program was authorized at $1.7 billion per year through FY1991 by SARA, and through FY1994 by OBRA. Targeted amendments in 1992 and 1996 (P.L. 102-426 and P.L. 104-201) addressed transferring of contaminated defense sites; another 1996 amendment (P.L. 104-208) amended CERCLA to protect lenders. In 1999, P.L. 106-113 absolved recyclers from CERCLA liability.

Superfund and Amendments

Table 1. Superfund and Amendments(codified generally as 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675)

Year Act Public Law Number
1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 P.L. 96-510
1986 Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 P.L. 99-499
1990 Superfund extension P.L. 101-508, § 6301, 11231
1992 Community Environmental Response Facilitation Act P.L. 102-426
1996 Asset Conservation, Lender Liability and Deposit Insurance Protection Act P.L. 104-208, Division A, Title II, Subtitle E
1996 Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 1997 P.L. 104-201, §334
1999 Superfund Recycling Equity Act P.L. 106-113, appendix I, Title VI
2002 Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act P.L. 107-118

CERCLA authorizes the federal government to respond to spills and other releases (or threatened releases) of hazardous substances, as well as to leaking hazardous waste dumps. Hazardous substances are identified under the Solid Waste Disposal Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act, or are designated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Response is also authorized for releases of “pollutants or contaminants,” which are broadly defined to include virtually anything that can threaten the health of “any organism.” Most nuclear materials and petroleum are excluded, except for those petroleum products that are specifically designated as hazardous substances under one of the laws mentioned above.

The fund is not to be used for responding to (1) releases of naturally occurring unaltered substances; (2) releases from products that are part of the structure of residential buildings, businesses, or community structures (such as asbestos); or (3) releases into drinking water supplies due to ordinary deterioration of the water system. An exception to these three limitations is made, however, in cases of public health or environmental emergencies when no other person has the authority and capability to respond in a timely manner. EPA is to give priority to releases that threaten public health or drinking water supplies.

The fund and taxes

The Hazardous Substances Superfund Trust Fund was first established at $1.6 billion for the 1980-1985 period. Revenues were raised primarily by taxes on crude oil and on 42 chemicals; one-eighth of the total was authorized from the General Fund of the Treasury. (Appropriations actually comprised 10.6% of the total.) The taxation authority expired on September 30, 1985, and to keep the program running during 1986 (while SARA was debated in the conference committee), Congress authorized two repayable advances, later repaid, to the fund: $150 million was loaned in April, and an additional $48 million was made available in August.

For the 1987-1991 period, SARA funded the program at $8.5 billion. As previously noted, these taxes were extended through 1995 at the same rate of $1.7 billion annually. Table 1. summarizes Superfund’s revenue sources for the last 5 full fiscal years the taxes were in effect. (The excise taxes on crude oil and chemicals, and the corporate environmental income tax, ceased on December 31, 1995.)

Table 2. Superfund Revenue, FY1991 to FY1995

Revenue Amount of Revenue Percent of
($ billion) Total Revenue
Petroleum Tax 2.800 30.7
Chemical Feedstocks Tax (a) 1.275 14.0
Corporate Environmental Tax 3.121 34.3
Cost Recoveries from Responsible Parties 0.901 9.9
Fines and Penalties 0.011 0.1
Interest on Investments (b) 0.998 11.0
Total 9.106 100.0

Source: Funds Management Division, U.S. Treasury Department, Hazardous Substances Superfund Trust Fund, 20X8145, Income Statement (monthly reports). Compiled by CRS. (a) Includes tax on imported chemical derivatives. (b) Includes accrued interest on investments.

All of the taxes went into effect on January 1, 1987, except the tax on imported chemical derivatives which began on January 1, 1989. It was also extended through 1995.

The tax on petroleum, previously 0.79 cents per barrel according to the 1980 law, was increased to 8.2 cents per barrel for domestic crude oil, and to 11.7 cents per barrel on imported petroleum products by the 1986 amendments. After a challenge by several countries before an investigative panel of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, this tax was changed to 9.7 cents a barrel, regardless of source (P.L. 101-221).

With the exception of xylene, the taxes on the 42 organic and inorganic feedstock chemicals, which range from $0.22 to $4.87 per ton, were reimposed by SARA at their former rates. Xylene had been the subject of a controversial Treasury Department ruling having to do with separated isomers of the chemical and the point of taxation. SARA allowed all those who previously paid the tax on xylene to apply for a refund, with interest. To compensate for the lost revenues, the tax on xylene was increased from $4.87 to $10.13 per ton.

Certain chemicals listed in the tax table are exempt from payment of the tax when used for specified purposes, or when produced in certain ways. Thus, methane and butane are excused from the tax when used as fuel, as are substances used in the production of fertilizer. Also exempted are sulfuric acid when produced as a byproduct of air pollution control, and any chemicals derived from coal.

Two new taxes were imposed by the 1986 law. Imported chemical derivatives are taxed at a rate equal to the amount which would have been imposed on the feedstocks used in the manufacture of the derivative if the feedstocks had been sold in the United States for that purpose. If the importer does not furnish sufficient information to compute the tax in that manner, the tax is 5% of the customs value of the import. Fifty chemical derivatives are listed in the law. The Secretary of the Treasury is to add to this list any derivative made from taxable feedstocks, if the feedstocks make up more than 50% by weight of the raw materials used to produce the substance. The Secretary may also add other substances to the list if taxable feedstocks comprise more than 50% of the value of the raw materials used to make them. For the same reasons, the Secretary may remove substances from the list as well. As of August 1994 there were 113 chemicals on the list, including the 50 designated in the law. This tax went into effect on January 1, 1989, and was extended through 1995.

The other tax added by SARA in 1986 is the corporate environmental income tax, which is based on the alternative minimum income tax system of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. The tax is 0.12% ($12 per $10,000) of taxable income in excess of $2 million, and is imposed on corporations. In addition to taxes and appropriations, the fund receives reimbursements from polluters for cleanup and other response costs under this act and under Section 311 of the Clean Water Act, plus any penalties and punitive damages assessed under other provisions of CERCLA.

Responding to releases

The procedures to be followed in responding to hazardous substance releases are detailed in the National Contingency Plan (40 CFR Part 300). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the lead agency, except for spills in coastal areas and inland waterways, where the Coast Guard assumes responsibility.

There are two types of governmental response: (1) short-term removals, where emergency action is required (for example, to avert fire or explosion, or to prevent the imminent contamination of a water body); and (2) long-term remedial actions taken at sites on the National Priority List. Removals are limited to a one-year effort and the expenditure of not more than $2 million. Remedial actions are of a longer term, are more expensive, and frequently involve extensive engineering at the sites.

To ensure that the most serious sites are addressed, the law calls for a National Priority List (NPL) to be assembled. EPA developed a Hazard Ranking System (HRS) to construct the NPL, which scores such factors as the quantity and nature of hazardous wastes present; the likelihood of contamination of ground water, surface water, and air; and the proximity of the site to population and sensitive natural environments. As of November 2000, the NPL contained 1,294 proposed and final sites. The total listed since the beginning of the program is 1,458, of which construction has been completed at 757 (52%); 227 sites have been removed from the NPL. Before remedial action is undertaken at sites where Superfund money is used, the state must assure (1) that it will provide future maintenance of the site (in cases of ground or surface water cleanup, the 100% state maintenance requirement is delayed for 10 years); (2) that off-site disposal capacity is available, if necessary; and (3) that it will pay 10% of the costs of remedial action, or, if the site was owned or operated by the state or a local government at the time of disposal, that it will pay at least 50% of the costs.

Liability and Financial Responsibility

In general, waste generators, transporters who select the disposal site, and disposal facility owners and operators are liable for response costs and for damage to natural resources. Limits to liability are set as follows: (1) for vessels (except incineration vessels) carrying hazardous substances as cargo or residue, the greater of $300 per gross ton or $5 million; (2) for other vessels (except incineration vessels), the greater of $300 per gross ton or $500,000; (3) for motor vehicles, aircraft, pipelines, or rolling stock, $50 million or a lesser amount set by regulations, but in no event less than $5 million; and (4) for incineration vessels and for any other facility not specified in (3), the total of all costs of response plus as much as $50 million for any damages. The act does not impose liability for victims of exposure to hazardous substances. Generally speaking, such victims must seek restitution for damages in state courts.

EPA’s enforcement costs are collectible from potentially responsible parties (PRPs), as well as its cleanup costs. There are no limits to liability if the hazardous substance release is due to misconduct; negligence; violation of any safety, construction, or operating standards or regulations; or when cooperation and assistance requested by a public official in connection with response activities is denied. Triple punitive damages may be imposed for failure to comply with a cleanup order without sufficient cause. All federal agencies are subject to the act.

Owners and operators of vessels and facilities are required to show evidence of financial responsibility (such as insurance). For vessels exceeding 300 gross tons (except non-self-propelled barges not carrying hazardous substances as cargo) such financial responsibility is to be the greater of $300 per gross ton or $5 million. For facilities, the amount is $1 million per occurrence, with an annual aggregate of $2 million for sudden accidental events. For non-sudden accidents coverage must be at least $3 million per occurrence, with an annual aggregate of $6 million.

The 1986 law added a provision limiting insurance companies’ liability to the amount of coverage specified in the policy. Previously, some courts had held them liable for higher amounts. SARA also authorized companies to form “risk retention groups” as a means of insuring themselves (Title IV).

The 104th Congress passed the Asset Conservation, Lender Liability, and Deposit Insurance Protection Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-208, the Omnibus Appropriation Act of 1996. The language of the Asset Conservation, Lender Liability, and Deposit Insurance Protection Act is found in Division A, Title II, Subtitle E.), amending CERCLA to protect lenders and fiduciaries from liability so long as they do not participate in the management of a facility contaminated with hazardous substances. Lenders at times have incurred liability after foreclosing on a contaminated property. This law details what actions a lender may take, which include activities related to his financial interest, and responding appropriately to the hazardous substance release. A fiduciary’s liability is limited to the value of the assets held in trust, provided the fiduciary did not cause or contribute to the hazardous substance release.

Protection from CERCLA liability was also extended to recyclers of paper, plastic, glass, textiles, rubber, metal, and batteries by the Superfund Recycling Equity Act of 1999. (P.L. 106-113, Appendix I, Title VI.) This law enacted by the 106th Congress absolves recyclers from liability unless the person has reason to believe the material would be burned, or the consuming facility was not in compliance with environmental laws, or that hazardous substances had been added to the material, or failed to exercise care in managing the material. The liability exemption is inapplicable if the recyclable material contains PCBs in excess of federal standards.

Additional limits on CERCLA liability were provided in the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act (P.L. 107-118.) Contributors of “de micromis” amounts of hazardous substances (less than 110 gallons of liquid or less than 200 pounds of solid material) at an NPL site are exempt from liability if the wastes were disposed prior to April 1, 2001. Also exempt are residential property owners, small businesses, and small non-profit organizations that sent only municipal solid waste to NPL sites, as well as property owners whose land abuts a Superfund site, prospective purchasers of contaminated property, and innocent landowners.

Health-Related Authorities

CERCLA created the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in the Public Health Service to carry out the health-related authorities in the act. ATSDR is to maintain a registry of persons exposed to toxic substances; maintain an inventory of literature, research, and studies on the health effects of toxic substance contamination; provide medical care and testing in cases of public health emergencies; and periodically conduct surveys and screening programs to determine the relationship between exposure to toxic substances and illness. Facilities of the Public Health Service are to be made available to exposed persons in cases of public health emergencies.

SARA created new duties for ATSDR. The agency and EPA were to prepare a list of at least 275 of the hazardous substances most commonly found at NPL sites. ATSDR is to prepare toxicological profiles of these substances at a rate of at least 25 per year. Where there is insufficient information on a substance, ATSDR is to conduct research. The costs of the research program are to be borne by the manufacturers and processors of the hazardous substances in question, in accordance with procedures promulgated under the authorities of the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

The ASTDR must perform a health assessment at each facility within one year of its proposal for listing on the NPL. The health assessments are to assist in determining whether or not to take additional steps to reduce human exposure to hazardous substances, and whether to gather additional information through, for example, epidemiological studies or health surveillance programs. Citizens may petition ATSDR for a health assessment if they have been exposed to a hazardous substance. ATSDR is to provide consultations to EPA, and to state and local officials as requested, on health issues related to hazardous substances.

Cleanup Schedules

Because of slow cleanup progress, SARA set deadlines for commencing specified numbers of site inspections, rankings for the National Priorities List, remedial investigations and feasibility studies (RI/FSs), and physical on-site work through November 1990. Those targets were all surpassed.

Cleanup Standards

In general, cleanups must assure protection of health and the environment, and be cost-effective in both the long-term and the short-term. SARA requires that cleanups meet the standards of federal and state environmental laws, but EPA may waive a requirement when:

  • the action is part of a larger remedial action that will meet the standards;
  • compliance would result in a greater risk than alternative options;
  • compliance is impractical from an engineering perspective;
  • an equivalent standard of performance is attained;
  • in the case of a state standard, the state has not consistently applied the standard elsewhere; or,
  • meeting the standard does not provide a balance between the need for protection of health and the environment at the facility, and the availability of amounts in the fund to respond to other sites that also present a threat.

The law specifically requires cleanups to meet the Safe Drinking Water Act’s recommended maximum contaminant levels (RMCLs), and the Clean Water Act’s water quality criteria. The agency is directed to choose permanent remedies when possible, as opposed to burying wastes in landfills. If a nonpermanent treatment is employed, EPA must review the site every five years to see if it presents a threat. States are given the opportunity for an active role in choosing the cleanup method.

Federal Facilities

CERCLA made federal agencies subject to the law in the same way as any nongovernmental entity, and required them to clean up any hazardous waste sites they owned or operated. The Superfund trust fund is not available to them, and the cost of cleanup is to be funded from the agencies’ appropriations. The one exception to this rule is that the fund may be used to provide alternative water supplies in cases where there is groundwater contamination outside the boundaries of a federally owned facility, and there are other potentially responsible parties besides the federal agency.

Two provisions of SARA attempted to accelerate the cleanup, and to resolve questions of jurisdiction that have arisen. Section 120 sets out a timetable, and requires participation in the planning and cleanup selection process by state and local officials and the public. Where a federal agency and EPA disagree on the proposed remedy to be undertaken at a site, EPA is to make the selection. Although Subsection (g) prohibits the transfer of EPA’s authorities under this section to any other agency or person, an executive order signed by President Reagan on January 23, 1987, gives the Office of Management and Budget the final authority in cases where EPA and another federal agency disagree on the remedy selection.

Nevertheless, in May and June 1988 EPA came to terms with the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy on model language to be inserted in all federal facility cleanup agreements at Superfund sites owned by the two departments. The model language provides for and recognizes (1) EPA’s authority to assess penalties in the case of noncompliance with the agreement; (2) the departments’ commitment to study and perform EPA-approved cleanups at the facilities; (3) EPA’s commitment to review and comment on the departments’ studies and plans; (4) a mechanism for resolving disputes, with final authority resting with the EPA Administrator when staff of the agency and the departments cannot reach agreement; and (5) enforceability of the agreements by states and citizens.

Federally owned sites that are not on the National Priorities List are subject to state laws concerning removal, remedial action, and enforcement. Information on federally owned hazardous waste sites that agencies are required to submit under several different provisions of CERCLA and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act is required to be centralized in a Federal Agency Hazardous Waste Compliance Docket. EPA established this docket on April 17, 1987, and publishes updates in the Federal Register every six months. SARA also places strictures on the sale of federal property to ensure that any hazardous wastes will be cleaned up prior to sale.

The second provision of interest added by SARA is found in Section 211, the “Department of Defense Environmental Restoration Program.” This section amends Title 10 of the U.S. Code rather than CERCLA. In addition to making DOD’s preexisting Installation Restoration Program a matter of statutory law, this provision establishes a research program for military hazardous wastes and the health effect of exposure to them. It also creates a special transfer account to receive appropriations to implement this section, but allows funding to be reprogrammed for the removal of unsafe buildings or debris at former DOD sites. The explanatory statement of the conference committee notes that the restoration program is to be implemented in a manner consistent with SARA, including the provisions relating to public participation (Section 117), federal facilities (Section 120), and cleanup standards (Section 121).

The 102nd Congress amended CERCLA by enacting the Community Environmental Response Facilitation Act (CERFA, P.L. 102-426). The act eases military base closures by allowing portions of bases that are not contaminated to be sold or transferred. The numerous base closures and realignments across the nation have had adverse economic effects on some local communities, particularly through the loss of jobs, and under previous law a base could not be sold or transferred for development until environmental cleanup was completed. CERFA permits the noncontaminated portions of bases to be transferred, while cleanup continues at the contaminated portions, and provides for the appropriate identification on deeds and other documents of the activities that have taken place there. It also confirms that the U.S. government remains responsible for any further cleanup of hazardous substances or petroleum products that might be required.

In Section 334 of P.L. 104-201, the Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 1997, the 104th Congress took CERFA a step further by allowing the transfer of federal property even if contamination remained at the site. EPA and the governor of the state where the site is located must make a finding that the site is suitable for the use intended by the new owner, the intended use is consistent with protection of public health and the environment, the public has an opportunity to comment, and the deferral of cleanup and the transfer of property will not substantially delay any necessary response action at the property. The deed to the property must contain assurances that provide for any necessary restrictions on the use of the property, and to ensure that response actions will not be disrupted; it must also assure that the cleanup will be completed in accordance with an approved timetable, and that the federal agency will submit an adequate budget request to the Office of Management and Budget to complete all necessary response actions. When cleanup is completed, the agency shall provide to the new owner a warranty to that effect.


EPA, at its discretion, is authorized to enter into settlement agreements that are in the public interest and that minimize litigation; such a decision is not subject to judicial review. The agency can also prepare a nonbinding allocation of cleanup costs among responsible parties when it would aid settlement. “Mixed funding,” where responsible parties conduct the cleanup with some assistance from the Superfund, is explicitly permitted. In certain situations EPA may release a party from future liability as part of a settlement agreement. Expedited procedures for settling with minor (de minimis) contributors of waste at a site are provided; such parties are protected from contribution suits by others involved at the site.


States are authorized to participate in the cleanup process, from initial site assessment to selecting and carrying out the remedial action, and negotiating with responsible parties. To encourage states to establish new treatment and disposal facilities, SARA requires, as a condition of having its NPL sites cleaned up, that a state assure that it will have adequate disposal capacity for all hazardous wastes expected to be generated within the state for the next 20 years. This requirement went into effect in November 1989.

The law requires that, in lawsuits for personal injury or property damage due to exposure to hazardous substances, state statutes of limitations will not begin to run until the date when the individual knows, or should have known, that the personal injury was caused by the exposure to the hazardous substance. The purpose of this provision is to overcome situations (e.g., long-latency diseases such as cancer) where a party is barred from bringing a lawsuit because the statute of limitations expired before the injury was discovered.


EPA’s principal enforcement tool is the authority to order a potentially responsible party (PRP) to take actions at a site that presents an imminent and substantial danger to the public health or welfare, or the environment from an actual or threatened hazardous substance release. Failure to obey an order may make a PRP liable for triple punitive damages. CERCLA also gives EPA information-gathering powers, and authority to enter and inspect facilities, and to obtain samples of suspected hazardous substances. EPA can assess civil penalties of not more than $25,000 per day ($75,000 per day for subsequent violations) for failure to comply with its orders or for violating these and other CERCLA provisions, including (1) the requirement to notify authorities of a hazardous substance release; (2) destruction of records; (3) financial responsibility requirements; and (4) violating an order or consent decree concerning settlement agreements. A subpoena power can compel the attendance of witnesses and documents at administrative hearings. As noted in the section on liability, EPA may seek to recover its cleanup and enforcement costs from PRPs in order to reimburse the trust fund; the law also gives the United States a lien on the property.

In addition, CERCLA authorizes paying awards of up to $10,000 for information leading to criminal conviction for failure to give notice of a release, and for destroying or concealing records. The law also has provisions protecting employees who provide information to a state or the federal government regarding the administration or enforcement of the Superfund law.

A state may enforce any federal or state regulation to which a remedial action is required to conform. A consent decree (from a court) or a consent order (from EPA) implementing a settlement agreement must contain penalties for violations of the decree or order; it, too, is enforceable by either the state or federal government.

Individuals may bring a citizen suit against anyone, including the United States, for violating CERCLA (or any order, agreement, etc., that has become effective pursuant to the act). A citizen suit may also be brought against EPA or any other federal agency for failure to perform a nondiscretionary duty required by the law.

Natural Resource Damages

In addition to imposing liability for cleanup costs, CERCLA requires PRPs to remedy the environmental harm they caused by restoring or replacing the injured natural resources, and by paying damages for the lost use of publicly owned resources, including the costs of performing the damage assessment. The law and its implementing regulations designate federal, state, and tribal authorities as trustees for the natural resources under their jurisdiction, and they are the only ones who can assert a claim for damages. Losses that were previously identified in an environmental impact statement are excluded, as are injuries to a natural resource that occurred before enactment of CERCLA. A claim must be brought within three years of its discovery and connection to the release.

Public Participation

The public is allowed to participate in the selection of a cleanup plan, and EPA is required to respond to public comments. Local groups can receive as much as $50,000 to obtain technical assistance in interpreting information related to a site.


EPA’s brownfields program for addressing less seriously contaminated industrial and commercial hazardous waste sites was granted statutory authority in the Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act of 2001 (Title II of P.L. 107-118, the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act.) The agency initiated the program administratively in 1993 under the general authority of CERCLA, and Congress recognized it in earmarked funding within the Superfund appropriation since FY1997 (P.L. 104-204; for FY1998: P.L. 105-65; for FY1999: P.L. 105-276; for FY2000: P.L. 106-74; for FY2001: P.L. 106-377.) The 2001 enactment directs EPA to establish: (1) a program to provide grants to characterize, assess, and conduct planning at brownfield sites, and to perform targeted site assessments; and (2) a program to provide grants to capitalize revolving loan funds, or to be used directly to remediate one or more sites. The new law also authorizes grants to assist states in establishing or enhancing their voluntary cleanup programs.

Additionally, the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-34) allowed developers to deduct from their income the costs of environmental cleanup at certain brownfields in the same year that the expenditures are incurred. Previous Internal Revenue Service rules required cleanup costs to be spread over a number of years. Originally usable until December 31, 2000, the tax break was continued for one year by the Tax Relief Extension Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-170), and was extended through 2003 by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2001 (P.L. 106-554).

Major U.S. Code Sections

Table 3. Major U.S. Code Sections of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 and Amendments(codified generally as 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675)

42 U.S.C. Section Title Comprehensive Environmental Response,
Compensation, and Liability Act
(as amended)
Subchapter I — Hazardous Substances Releases, Liability, Compensation
9601 Definitions Sec. 101
9602 Designations of additional hazardous substances/reportable quantities Sec. 102
9603 Notification requirements respecting released substances Sec. 103
9604 Response authorities Sec. 104
9605 National contingency plan Sec. 105
9606 Abatement actions Sec. 106
9607 Liability Sec. 107
9608 Financial responsibility Sec. 108
9609 Civil penalties Sec. 109
9610 Employee protection Sec. 110
9611 Uses of fund Sec. 111
9612 Claims procedure Sec. 112
9613 Civil proceedings Sec. 113
9614 Relationship to other law Sec. 114
9615 Presidential delegation/assignment Sec. 115
9616 Schedules Sec. 116
9617 Public participation Sec. 117
9618 High priority for drinking water supplies Sec. 118
9619 Response Action Coordinators Sec. 119
9620 Federal facilities Sec. 120
9621 Cleanup standards Sec. 121
9622 Settlements Sec. 122
9623 Reimbursement to local governments Sec. 123
9624 Methane recovery Sec. 124
9625 Sec. 6921 (b)(3)(A)(i) Sec. 125
9626 Indian tribes Sec. 126
Subchapter II — Hazardous Substance Response Trust Fund
Part A — Hazardous Substance Response Trust Fund
9631 Repealed (Establishment of Hazardous Response Trust Fund) Sec. 221
9632 Repealed (Liability of United States limited to the amount in trust fund) Sec. 222
9633 Repealed (Administrative procedures) Sec. 223
Part B — Post-Closure Liability Trust Fund
9641 Repealed (Post Closure Liability Trust Fund) Sec. 232
Subchapter III — Miscellaneous Provisions
9651 Reports and studies Sec. 301
9652 Effective dates; savings provision Sec. 302
9653 (Repealed) Termination of authority to collect taxes Sec. 303
9654 Applicability of Federal water pollution control funding Sec. 304
9655 Legislative veto of rule or regulation Sec. 305
9656 Transportation of hazardous substances; listing as hazardous material; liability for damage Sec. 306a
9657 Separability of provisions Sec. 308
9658 Actions under state law for damages from exposure to hazardous substances cases Sec. 309
9659 Citizen suits Sec. 310
9660 Research, development, and demonstration Sec. 311
9660a Grant program Sec. 312
9661 Love Canal property acquisition Sec. 312
9662 Limitation on contract and borrowing authority (Sec. 3 of SARA)
Subchapter IV — Pollution Insurance
9671 Definitions Sec. 401
9672 State laws; scope of chapter Sec. 402
9673 Risk retention groups Sec. 403
9674 Purchasing groups Sec. 404
9675 Applicability of securities laws Sec. 405

Further Reading

  • U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Environment and Public Works, A Legislative History of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-949) together with a Section-by-Section Index, Prepared by the Environment and Natural Resources Policy Division of the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, Committee Print, 101st Congress, 2nd sess., GPO, 1990, v. 6, p. 5095.

Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the Congressional Research Service. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the Congressional Research Service should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.

Notes: The first version of this article was drawn from material prepared for the Congressional Research Service by Mark Reisch.


(2006). Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, United States. Retrieved from


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