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Climate said to imperil 60% of Superfund sites

Climate said to imperil 60% of Superfund sites

Washington DC: At least 60 per cent of the US Superfund sites are in areas vulnerable to flooding or other worsening disasters of climate change, and the Trump administration's reluctance to directly acknowledge global warming is deterring efforts to safeguard them, a congressional watchdog agency says.

In a report being released later Monday, the Government Accountability Office called on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to state directly that dealing with the rising risks of seas, storms or wildfires breaching Superfund sites under climate change is part of the agency's

mission.

The findings emphasise the challenges for government agencies under President Donald Trump, who frequently mocks scientists' urgent warnings on global heating.

Wheeler's highest-profile public remarks on the matter came in a March CBS interview, when he called global heating an important change but not one of the agency's most pressing problems.

Most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out, Wheeler said then, rejecting conclusions by scientists that damage to climate from fossil fuel emissions already is making natural disasters fiercer and more frequent.

Largely avoiding the words climate change, the agency in a formal response rejected the GAO finding that the agency was making a mistake by not spelling out that hardening Superfund sites against a worsening climate was part and parcel of the EPA's

mission.

The EPA believes the Superfund program's existing processes and resources adequately ensure that risks and any adverse effects of severe weather events, that may increase in intensity, duration, or frequency, are woven into risk assessments, assistant EPA administrator Peter Wright wrote the GAO in response.

GAO investigators looked at 1,571 Superfund sites.

That number does not include Superfund sites owned by the Defense Department and other federal agencies.

At least 945 of them are in areas that scientists have identified as at greater risk of floods, storm surge from major hurricanes, wildfires or sea-level rise of 3 feet or more, the GAO says.

Broken down, that includes 783 Superfund sites at greater risk of flooding under climate change, 234 Superfund sites at high or very high risk from wildfires, and 187 sites vulnerable to storm surge from any Category 4 or 5 hurricane, the researchers said.

Senate Democrats asked for the review of how ready EPA's Superfund program is for climate change.

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