US Senator Jim Inhofe sees agency progress on cooperation at Tar Creek

Thursday, May 1st 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Three federal agencies appear to be making progress on a request to set aside turf battles and coordinate cleanup of the Tar Creek Superfund Site, Sen. Jim Inhofe said Wednesday.

The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior and Army Corps of Engineers are considering a coordinated response to address health and environmental hazards at the northeast Oklahoma site.

A proposed memorandum of understanding among the agencies is in the works, and Inhofe said an unofficial and incomplete draft shows they ``are making progress in accommodating my request.''

``When this important document is finalized in the coming days, it will show that federal agencies understand and agree with my belief that bureaucratic red tape and interagency turf battles have dramatically slowed the cleanup process,'' the Oklahoma Republican said in a statement.

Inhofe chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. He said he asked the agencies to set aside internal federal battles to find an overall solution to hazards at the site, which includes five towns.

A spokesman for Inhofe's committee said the final memorandum of understanding is expected within days.

The former lead and zinc mining hub is one of the nation's oldest Superfund sites. Its 40 square miles pose a multitude of threats that include mine collapses, open mine shafts, mountains of lead-laden mine waste and acid mine water that stains Tar Creek orange.

The draft memorandum obtained by The Associated Press provides for the agencies to work together on a ``holistic strategy'' and ``so that their collective authorities may be brought to bear.''

EPA spokeswoman Lisa Harrison said memoranda of understanding are routine to insure cooperation among agencies. She cautioned that the draft is at least three pages shorter than another version of the agreement under consideration.