Strengthening Superfund Cleanups With Land Use Institutional Controls

July 2024
ELR 10548
Maureen Hartwell

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) established the “Superfund,” which allows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up contaminated sites. It also forces the parties responsible for contamination to either perform cleanups or reimburse the government for the EPA-led cleanup work. The Superfund program relies on several tools to protect against lasting contamination. Perhaps the most well-understood of these tools is “engineering controls.” Conversely, the lesser-known “institutional controls” (ICs) are nonengineered or legal controls that minimize the potential human exposure to contamination by limiting land or resource use. This Comment provides an overview of the Superfund program; explains the when, where, and what of ICs at Superfund sites; discusses criticisms of ICs and challenges with their implementation; examines their role as a cleanup solution; and surveys land use case studies and best practices from Superfund sites across the country, highlighting how, with commitment from local governments, this unsung hero can be reimagined to yield lasting progress in and around Superfund sites.

Maureen Hartwell is a 2025 J.D. candidate at Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law.

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Strengthening Superfund Cleanups With Land Use Institutional Controls

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