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Reps. Bass, Cleaver Introduce The Preparing Superfund For Climate Change Act

December 10, 2020
Press Release
WASHINGTON - This week, United States Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) and Karen Bass (D-CA) introduced H.R. 8915, the Preparing Superfund For Climate Change Act. The legislation would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to account for climate change in their plans for managing Superfund sites, which are polluted locations that contain hazardous toxic waste and other contaminants harmful to public health. U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has introduced identical legislation in the Senate.

“Sea level rise on the coasts, 100-year river flooding and devastating fires across the west could reach several Superfund sites and send highly dangerous chemicals into our air, soil and water,” said Congressmember Bass. “Last year, the Government Accountability Office confirmed that Superfund sites across the country are not equipped to withstand the threat of climate change. Unless EPA takes climate into account when preparing to clean up a Superfund, we are all in danger. I urge my colleagues to support this important and urgent piece of legislation.”

“As we have witnessed natural disasters become more powerful, prevalent, and costly in recent years, it’s clear that climate change is exacerbating these challenges and the damage they do to our communities,” said Congressman Cleaver. “Not only do we need to face the fact that climate change is happening in this very moment, but we must begin to account for its potential to release extremely toxic, dangerous materials from Superfund sites scattered across the country. This critical piece of legislation will require the EPA to plan for such scenarios and ensure neighboring communities have the protection needed to avoid a tragedy caused by lack of preparation.”

The Preparing Superfund For Climate Change Act would:

  • Require the potential threat to human health and the environment associated with local natural disasters and hazards due to climate change be incorporated into any plans to clean-up a Superfund site; and
  • Require that local natural disasters and extreme weather hazards, including any projected exacerbation or change in those disasters and hazards due to climate change, be taken into account in the periodic review of whether a clean-up plan is adequately protective.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report concluding Superfund sites across the country are severely underprepared to weather the exacerbating threat of climate change. In the report, the GAO found that roughly 60% of Superfund sites across the nation face risks from flooding, storm surge, rise in sea level, and wildfires. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused flooding at 13 Superfund sites as well as breaches at two others. In 2018, a California wildfire burned through the Iron Mountain Mine site, causing pipes to catch fire with the potential to lead to an explosion that would have released dangerous chemicals into the neighboring communities. 

There are currently 97 Superfund sites on the National Priority List in California—87 of which were deemed “vulnerable,” including a ring of 7 sites in areas surrounding the 37th District of California.