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The Superfund program, established by Congress in 1980 and reauthorized in 1986, is intended to handle emergencies arising from the release of hazardous wastes, to provide long-term cleanup for a limited number of sites, and to encourage more responsible disposal of hazardous wastes in the future. This report provides an overview of the Superfund program, its legal basis, and its sources of funds; presents a concise description of incentives and the major administrative steps taken in their application; provides an overview of the major indicators of program effect based on public data available from the Environmental Protection Agency and other selected sources; presents a short interpretation of some of the most interesting or puzzling findings; and outlines statistics and attempts to capture costs and activities for each of the major groups participating in the Superfund process. It also considers the transaction-cost issue, focusing on two of the key players in the cleanup process: very large companies (potentially responsible parties) and insurers that are brought into the hazardous-waste cleanup process by their policy holders' indemnity claims. It describes their experiences with Superfund and Superfund-type sites, and shows the division of their expenses between cleanup and transaction costs.

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