The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) provides a broad range of enforcement authorities that EPA can use to meet the goals of the Superfund program. Under these authorities EPA can:
- Search a Potentially Responsible Party's (PRP) property;
- Order PRPs to clean up sites;
- Negotiate settlements with PRPs to fund or perform site cleanup; and
- Take legal action if the PRPs do not perform or pay for cleanup.
One goal of the Superfund enforcement program is to make responsible parties pay for the environmental damage they have caused. Ideally all PRPs would conduct and pay for cleanup from the beginning. However, the situation is often an emergency and there is not time to search for potentially responsible parties (PRPs) and to ensure they take responsibility for their action. In these cases EPA acts immediately, taking a Fund-lead action, which uses Federal money from the Superfund, and then tries to recover the costs of the cleanup from the PRPs. When the situation permits, EPA tries to get the PRP to conduct the cleanup before it uses Fund resources. When this happens the action is referred to as an enforcement-lead or PRP-lead action.