Statement by Senator John H. Chafee
Superfund Legislation Pending Before the Environment and Public Works Committee
September 4, 1997

I would like to begin by thanking our witnesses. Some of them have traveled great distances to join us today, and I'm delighted that each of you have lent your energies to our efforts. Your insights will help us successfully to reform the nation's Superfund law.

From the beginning of this Congress I have believed that the Senate could pass legislation to reauthorize Superfund this year, and I still believe that. Today is another important step toward fixing a program with which every person in this room has found fault. Our goal today is to keep the process moving.

We will be hearing from witnesses about the revisions to S.8 contained in a draft we released last week. These changes were made in response to testimony we received in hearings last March, and the stakeholder meetings and negotiations that have taken place in the six months since then.

What we need to do now is to keep at it. The President, Administrator Browner, Senators here today from both sides of the aisle, and our counterparts in the House, have all indicated support for reforming the program. Now the players in this -- the Senate Majority, Minority and the Administrator -- must join together to finish the task in the Senate. Substantial efforts have been made in past Congresses to do just that. All of this work has led us to being I believe very close to a finished product.

I would like to thank everyone who participated in our process during the past six months. Senator Smith, Senator Baucus, Senator Lautenberg, Administrator Browner, and all of your staffs have worked hard and honestly with one another and with me and my staff. I thank you for your efforts. I also appreciate the time and energy of everyone who participated in the stakeholder meetings. But as much time and patience as everyone has put into this, it will take a bit more if any of our efforts are to bear fruit.

I want to talk briefly about the process we have been through. Since March, eleven stakeholder meetings were held as part of the more than 220 hours of discussion and negotiation that touched on every title of S.8. After the stakeholder process, we began to negotiate changes to the bill. On some issues the gaps were narrowed considerably. Those areas where discussions were most productive are reflected by many of the changes in the new draft of S.8. On other issues less progress was made.

We still need to address many elements of the bill, and I will continue to work toward a bill that most Senators on this Committee can support. Also, I will continue to work with Senators to find the best way to keep this process moving. However, I want to stress the need for forward progress. The First Session is nearly over, and we have a long way to go if we intend to pass a bill.

Finally, I want to note some areas of the bill that, to my mind, underscore the progress we have made.

The Remedy Selection Title of the bill now says more plainly what I believe was always intended -- that remedies must always protect human health and the environment. It accounts for future land use in deciding "how clean is clean," and it will result in faster cleanups.

The bill has also been made more flexible regarding the federal-state relationship. States can assume various degrees of responsibility for site cleanups. And the federal government can step in if the Governor asks for help, or if remedies used by a state are not sufficiently protective. Each of these issues was raised in testimony and discussions about the bill. We have made great efforts to resolve them.

It is in that cooperative and productive spirit that I ask my colleagues to not let the hard work of the past months go to waste. It is time to finish this bill. Thank you.