On September 28, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protective Agency (EPA) announced the results of a study that estimates the economic benefits of cleaning up facilities under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action program.
EPA’s analyses of just 79 cleanups revealed that these facilities support 1028 on-site businesses, which provide economic benefits including: $39 billion in annual sales revenue; over 82,000 jobs; and $7.9 billion in estimated annual employment income. EPA also developed brief profiles for more than 40 facilities to showcase the economic benefits that can be fostered through RCRA Corrective Action cleanups.
Since the analysis is from a small subset of the nearly 4000 facilities being cleaned up, the benefits associated with all RCRA Corrective Action cleanups are likely much greater. EPA plans to continue to evaluate economic benefits and develop more profiles in the future. Such benefits would likely be greatly magnified if the communities were to use the new revitalization and resilience-building tools now being offered by the RISING PLACES initiative.
“EPA’s study illustrates the incredible potential RCRA cleanups have to contribute significant environmental and economic benefits to communities across nation,” said Carlton Waterhouse, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Land and Emergency Management.
“While our primary focus is protecting the environment and public health, these profiles demonstrate real-world examples of development opportunities that can bolster our local economies, create job opportunities and improve the quality of life for impacted communities,” he added.
EPA and states work with owners and operators of hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities to ensure cleanups effectively protect human health and the environment and support reuse as well as continued use.
Facilities that are cleaned up under RCRA are often redeveloped for a wide array of commercial, recreational, and energy production purposes. These cleanups also enable on-site industrial and commercial businesses to continue operating while protecting human health and the environment.
EPA collected economic data for 79 facilities, a subset of all the Corrective Action facilities, for this study to assess the number of jobs and magnitude of economic benefits from these facilities post cleanup.
Additionally, Corrective Action cleanups are an important part of EPA’s focus on environmental justice to help correct disparities in access to a clean and safe environment.
EPA found that approximately 25% of the facilities in this study are located within communities with potential environmental justice concerns. More than 170 businesses are operating at these facilities, helping to generate 7,900 jobs and more than $522 million in annual income for these communities.
Finally, the economic benefits from RCRA Corrective Action cleanups go beyond those associated with on-site businesses. According to recent research, EPA’s Corrective Action program contributed to a $323 million increase in the value of homes near the completed cleanups studied.
By identifying and completing the cleanup of contamination, homeowners near the cleanups experience an average of a six to seven percent increase in the value of their homes. Another recent study notes that housing price increases are largest for lower-cost homes.
Signed into law in 1976 with Corrective Action provisions added in 1984, RCRA set standards for responsible solid waste management and established safeguards for hazardous wastes, from generation to transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal.
Corrective Action is a requirement under the law that facilities that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous wastes investigate and clean up hazardous releases into soil, ground water, surface water, and air. EPA and states currently oversee cleanups at almost 4000 facilities across the country under the RCRA Corrective Action program. Approximately 111 million people live within three miles of a RCRA Corrective Action cleanup.
Photo courtesy of EPA.