A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) memorandum establishes procedures that apply to the circumstances under which EPA regional offices must obtain headquarters approval to conduct a time-critical removal action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Under CERCLA, removal actions are generally limited to 12 months and $2 million of expenditures from the Hazardous Substance Superfund. The categories of removal actions that EPA characterizes as “time critical” are exempt from those statutory limitations. According to the February 26, 2013, memorandum, the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) must approve initiation of a time-critical removal that is “expected to cost more than $6 million of Fund monies” and proceeds under a statutory exception for emergency actions. Similarly, OSWER must approve initiation of time-critical removals conducted at sites not on the National Priorities List and expected to cost more than $2 million of Fund monies, which would be exempted under a statutory “consistency exception.” That exemption applies to situations where continued response is “otherwise appropriate and consistent with the remedial action to be taken.”

The memorandum sets forth the chain of communication for approval of time-critical removal actions and establishes procedures for consultation with the offices of General Counsel and Site Remediation Enforcement. The memorandum concludes, “In this time of tight budgets, close coordination between the Regions and Headquarters on Fund-lead actions is more important than ever. While the removals addressed herein are time-critical, the need for timely action should be balanced with the need for consensus on the appropriate expenditure of limited funds.”