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Superfund Reauthorization Principles

Legislative reform must build on the administrative improvements to the program and must be narrowly targeted to address critical issues in need of a legislative solution. The Administration's goals for Superfund reauthorization continue to be to: protect human health, welfare and the environment; maximize participation by responsible parties in the performance of cleanups; ensure effective State, Tribal and community involvement in decision making; and promote economic redevelopment or other beneficial reuse of sites, all in a manner that increases the pace of cleanups, improves program efficiency and decreases litigation and transaction costs, and which does not disrupt or delay ongoing progress. The Administration will support Superfund legislation that adheres to the following principles:

Liability and Enforcement

  • Maintain the principle that those who are responsible for the contamination must pay for the cleanup.
  • There should be clearly defined exemptions or limitations on liability, reflecting EPA's experience with administrative reforms, for very small volume contributors, generators and transporters of municipal solid waste, and bona fide prospective purchasers.
  • Legislation should establish "orphan share" funding from a separate account consistent with the President's Fiscal Year 1998 budget request. Orphan share compensation, defined as a contribution for responsibility attributable to insolvent or defunct parties, must not compete against cleanup dollars or reduce the funding available for response actions.
  • Legislation should reduce transaction costs by promoting settlements and encouraging contribution allocation of costs among settling parties through a flexible, nonprescriptive process that makes effective use of available "orphan share" funding.
  • The Administration strongly opposes, among other proposals: "site liability carve-outs" (i.e., elimination of liability for persons based upon type of site); limits on the President's CERCLA section 106 authority; preenforcement judicial review of remedy decisions; repeal of all or part of the current strict, retroactive, joint and several liability standards; preemption of state liability laws; and changes to the liability system that slow cleanups, reduce program efficiency or increase litigation and transaction costs, or that reduce the possibility of settlements.

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  • Remedies must protect human health and the environment over the long term.
  • Ground water should be restored to beneficial uses, wherever practicable. Maximum Contaminant Levels under the Safe Drinking Water Act or more stringent applicable State standards should be established as the cleanup standards for ground water whose beneficial use is or is anticipated to be as a drinking water source, unless technically impracticable.
  • Consideration of reasonably anticipated future land use should continue to be factored into the remedy selection process, based on consultation with the affected community.
  • Cleanups should be cost-effective and foster productive reuse of contaminated property to the degree practicable.
  • A preference for treatment of highly toxic, highly mobile waste should be retained. The mandate for permanence should be modified to emphasize long-term protection and reliability.
  • Cleanups should comply with the applicable substantive requirements of other Federal environmental laws and State environmental or facility siting laws applicable to remedial actions. The requirement to comply with relevant and appropriate requirements should be eliminated.
  • The dollar and time limits on Fund-financed removals should be increased.
  • The Administration strongly opposes, among other proposals, the following: prescriptive cost or risk assessment requirements, particularly those that would result in unprotective remedies; mandated remedy updates (including any remedy reopener provisions); default approval of remedy decisions; provisions which would fail to discourage contamination of currently uncontaminated land, ground water, or natural resources; provisions which would inhibit coordination between cleanup and natural resource restoration; elimination of applicable requirements from Federal laws or State environmental or facility siting laws; pre-enforcement judicial review of remedy decisions; and any other changes that disrupt or slow cleanups or settlements or result in remedies that are inadequately protective of human health, welfare, environment and natural resources.

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State and Tribal Issues

  • Increase the State and Tribal role in the Superfund program through flexible partnership agreements between EPA and States and Tribes, based upon demonstrated resources and capabilities, to enable all parties to work together to determine which sites should proceed under what authorities, and under whose lead, so that governmental resources are complementary, not duplicative. These partnership agreements should include provisions to ensure appropriate use and conservation of Superfund monies.
  • Support the development and expansion of State and Tribal cleanup programs, including State Voluntary Cleanup Programs, and better coordination between federal agencies and the States and Tribes.
  • The Administration strongly opposes, among other proposals: limitations on the Federal ability to respond to a threat to human health, welfare or the environment, or to enforce a response; preemption of State and Tribal cleanup standards; State and Tribal waivers of federal authority; transfer of responsibilities to States or Tribes in a manner that disrupts or delays response actions or that results in less protective cleanups; default approvals of State or Tribal programs.

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Natural Resources Damages

  • The Administration supports the legislative proposal on Natural Resources Damages (NRD) that it drafted and sent to the House and Senate in October, 1996. This legislative proposal would clarify that NRD claims would be focused on restoration costs rather than monetized values and would be presented in a more timely and orderly fashion, thereby discouraging premature litigation of NRD claims and enhancing coordination and integration of remedy and restoration.
  • The Administration strongly opposes, among other proposals: repeal of all or part of the current liability standards; proposed caps on recoverable damages; limitations on the natural resources that can be restored and the scope of trusteeship; inappropriate transition rules; or limitation on the type of values that may be considered in determining the scope or scale of restoration or damages.

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Community Health and Community Involvement

  • The Administration supports the continued protection of human health of communities impacted by Superfund sites through efforts of public health assessments, health effects studies, and other public health activities prescribed by law.
  • Continue efforts to enhance community involvement and development and provision of information to communities, including the opportunity for formally established community advisory groups at Superfund sites, and ensuring meaningful citizen involvement in determining the assumptions regarding reasonably anticipated future land use.
  • Support authority to award Technical Assistance Grants at NPL and non-NPL sites.
  • The Administration strongly opposes any provisions that would impair meaningful community input and involvement, or would disrupt existing citizen advisory groups or use inappropriate, prescriptive membership requirements for such groups.

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Brownfields and Voluntary Cleanup Programs

  • Support expansion of the current Brownfields program, including funding for site identification and assessment, funding to capitalize revolving loan funds for brownfield site cleanups, technical support and funding for job training and workforce development, and provisions for bona fide prospective purchasers.
  • Support the development, enhancement and expansion of State voluntary cleanup programs that meet appropriate standards as stated above.
  • The Administration strongly opposes provisions, among other proposals, which limit current brownfields grant eligibility and flexibility. The Administration also strongly opposes provisions including the following: restrictions on federal ability to adequately protect human health, welfare and the environment, particularly at higher risk sites, under State voluntary cleanup programs, and other limitations such as any limits on the authority to act upon a determination of imminent and substantial endangerment to human health, welfare or the environment.

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Enhancing Protection of Communities from Toxics

  • Legislation should ensure that communities have access to information about releases of hazardous substances and other toxics.
  • Legislation should ensure that EPA has the ability to obtain data from responsible parties about the cost of cleanups for the purposes of program evaluation.
  • Legislation should ensure that successful petitions for reimbursement under CERCLA section 106(b) do not have a significant adverse impact on ongoing cleanup activity or otherwise compromise Superfund programs.

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Other Important Issues

  • The Administration does not support legislative amendments specifically for federal facilities.
  • The Administration supports reinstatement of the Superfund taxes, and, through separate legislation, the establishment of a new tax incentive to promote the redevelopment and cleanup of brownfields.
  • The Administration strongly opposes a cap on further listings on the National Priorities List, premature or "default" deletion of sites from the NPL, and other proposals to restrict EPA's authority to list sites on the NPL.
  • The Administration strongly supports the research activities authorized by CERCLA.

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