STATEMENT BY SENATOR JOHN H. CHAFEE HEARING ON BROWNFIELDS ISSUES AND LEGISLATION SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE March 4, 1997

I want to thank the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Control and Risk Assessment, Senator Smith, for holding this hearing on the topic of Brownfields, and recognize him for his leadership on Superfund reform generally and on this very important part of Superfund reform, namely Brownfields revitalization. I also want to recognize the Ranking Members of the Committee and Subcommittee, Senators Baucus and Lautenberg, for their continued efforts on Superfund.

One of the unintended consequences of the Superfund statute is that new industries have shied away from urban areas, which already have in place an infrastructure to support new manufacturing and industrial facilities, and have instead located in previously undeveloped areas without any infrastructure to support them. Thus, a law that was supposed to be protective of the environment has actually led to increased development of formerly pristine lands.

In late January, both we and the Democrats introduced our bills on Superfund and Brownfields. A central focus of the Superfund bill we introduced in January, S.8---the "Superfund Cleanup Acceleration Act of 1997," is a strong pro-Brownfields revitalization policy. We all know what Brownfields are--they are the abandoned plant that might be contaminated, or might not be. It is the mothballed facility that a large company is afraid to sell for redevelopment because a successor's mismanagement might expose it to federal liability years later. No one knows exactly what the problems at these sites are, so people are afraid to invest in them or redevelop them, people are afraid of liability. So rather using old industrial sites, new development flees the city and tears up our open space, green fields. In the meantime, these old sites remain a blight and a big hole in local tax bases.

There is some commonality between our approach to Brownfields and the Minority approach. The legislation introduced by Senator Lautenberg and others addresses some of the Brownfields redevelopment barriers the Committee previously identified. The bill includes grants for site characterization, grants for states to set up revolving cleanup funds, and liability relief or limitations for bona fide prospective purchasers, and innocent landowners. All but one of the provisions are similar to provisions in our comprehensive bill, S.8.

Title I of S.8 contains many provisions that should facilitate Brownfields redelelopment. It will provide $15 million annually to capitalize revolving loan funds for site characterization and cleanup, and an additional $25 million annually to capitalize a revolving loan fund for site remediation. It provides an additional $25 million annually to improve or create State voluntary cleanup programs. It will lift the federal liability cloud from sites cleaned up under a State cleanup program, and it provides other assurance for prospective investors.

A major difference between our position and that of the Minority is the scope of a Brownfields bill. It is our position that there are many redevelopment candidates beyond the numerous lower risk, less-contaminated sites that are not likely to be added to Superfund's National Priorities List. In fact, there are many redevelopment candidates that either are currently on the NPL or could be. Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management informs me that there are over 200 Rhode Island sites that RIDEM screened as likely to score above the Superfund listing threshold score. The vast majority of these 200 sites will never be added to the Superfund NPL list; inevitably it will be Rhode Island's resposibility to supervise these cleanups. This has led us to conclude that a complete solution to the Brownfields dilemma requires significant changes to CERCLA beyond Title I of S.8. These changes will make possible a brighter future for Brownfields sites, whether or not they are on the Superfund list or in a State cleanup program.

During Superfund hearings in the last Congress, we repeatedly heard testimony from State officials who were concerned about the potential for increased federal involvement in State voluntary cleanup programs. We will hear similar testimony from many of our witnesses today. These witnesses will tell us that a key element needed to make Brownfield programs work is the ability of States to provide future liability waivers to parties that clean up these sites.

I agree. As Senator Smith and I noted in a letter on Brownfields to Administrator Browner in July, 1996, "we see little benefit in moving forward with a Brownfields bill that fails to address the critically important issues of the federal-State relationship and potential liability under Superfund. " The time for tinkering around the edges of Superfund is over. We need to extensively overhaul Superfund and I invite the Minority and Administration to join us.

The Minority makes a strong case for enacting Brownfields reform legislation. While we appreciate the continued commitment on the part of the Minority and the Administration towards improving this flawed environmental program, we believe that pursuing stand-alone Brownfields legislation so early in the 105th Congress would seriously undermine our effort to attain comprehensive Superfund reform this year.

Real Brownfields reform starts with recognizing that States and not the federal government are already cleaning up the vast majority of these Brownfields sites, therefore it follows that the key to reform is empowering the States. It is for this reason that I believe that a real solution for Brownfields reform means removing the federal impediments to reusing these properties. I stand ready to work with the sponsors of S.18 and the Administration to make sure that we get real Brownfields reform, namely comprehensive Superfund reform, as a top priority for the Environment and Public Works Committee and commend them for their hard work on this issue.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on this important topic.