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SARA: Response actions and enforcement
  • SARA improved the power of both removal and remedial actions.
  • SARA provided new enforcement authorities.

Response actions

The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) improved the power of both removal and remedial actions:

  • The limits on removal actions financed by the Trust Fund were raised from six months/one million dollars, financed by the Trust Fund, to one year/two million dollars (although these limits may be exceeded if an exception is justified).
  • All removal actions were required to be consistent with any long-term remedial action.
  • New cleanup goals and schedules were established. Goals were set for the completion of preliminary assessments of sites on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA's) inventory of potentially hazardous sites.
  • Mandatory deadlines were set for the completion of critical phases of remedial work at priority sites.
  • A preference was established for remedies that reduce the toxicity mobility, or volume of waste through treatment as a primary element.
  • EPA was ordered to select remedies that are cost-effective and utilize permanent solutions to the maximum extent practicable.
  • The statute established off-site land disposal without treatment as the least-preferred alternative.


SARA provided new enforcement authorities:

  • The use of settlement tools was encouraged to obtain agreements with potentially responsible parties (PRPs) to pay for and/or conduct the cleanup. During the first years of Superfund, EPA realized that settlements were the most cost-effective way of preserving Trust Fund resources. Lengthy litigation was too resource intensive.
  • Increased criminal penalties were authorized for failure to report releases of hazardous substances. SARA also made it a criminal offense to provide false or misleading information regarding releases.
  • EPA's access to hazardous substance sites for the completion of investigations and cleanups was improved.