Good Intentions, Poor Execution: Ethical Dilemmas of the Superfund Legislation

  • Ellen S. Weisbord
Part of the Research Issues in Real Estate book series (RIRE, volume 5)


Since their adoption in the late 1970s, the various environmental regulations known collectively as the Superfund laws have given rise to a plethora of compliance problems for owners of commercial and industrial properties. Criticism leveled at the Superfund laws has been based upon the widely held view that existing remediation standards are both economically and logistically indefensible. Such criticism appears valid in light of the actual results of the legislation: exorbitant cleanup costs and minimal cleanup.

In addition to this much publicized imbalance between cost and result, existing environmental laws have spawned unethical and illegal behaviors which are designed to keep property owners away from the scrutiny of governmental oversight agencies. These behaviors can be described in brief as “hide the problem” (don’t remove the contamination), “hide the waste” (dump it illegally), and “hide the clean-up” (keep even valid clean-up efforts secret from the government).

This paper argues that the Superfund legislation has cast an inequitable burden upon small firms that do not have the magnitude of resources required to bear the cost of compliance, and that the root of the injustice is a standardized and centralized system of enforcement. The legal and unethical behaviors are a result of this failure of environmental justice. The development of a systematic approach to voluntary environmental compliance, specifically tailored to small commercial and industrial property owners, which would increase equity—and thus compliance—is proposed.


Environmental Protection Agency Property Owner Stakeholder Theory Environmental Justice Superfund Site 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ellen S. Weisbord
    • 1
  1. 1.Pace UniversityUSA

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