OPENING STATEMENT OF
SENATOR FRANK R. LAUTENBERG (D-NJ)
EPW SUBCOMMITTEE ON SUPERFUND HEARING
ON BROWN FIELDS LEGISLATION
MARCH 4,1997

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased that we are here today to receive testimony on brownfields legislation. This hearing is a testament to the genuine spirit of bipartisanship that currently exists among members of the committee. And I'm hopeful that this spirit will continue as we address the complex and controversial issues that will be coming before the Superfund Subcommittee.

Fortunately, brownfields legislation is not one of those complex and controversial issues. Both parties have recognized that the threat of Superfund liability is deterring the redevelopment of contaminated properties. Both parties support liability relief for prospective purchasers, developers and bankers who would clean up these blighted properties, and restore them to productive use. Both parties have supported making low-interest money available to communities to clean up hazardous waste sites. And so we all support Brownfields legislation, which would promote jobs in urban communities, and remove contaminants from the environment.

Mr. Chairman, now that we have such bipartisan consensus, we should act. There are more than 100,000 brownfields sites that Superfund will not clean up because contamination levels are too low to qualify. Cleaning up these sites can make an enormous difference for communities all around our nation.

One of the first bills introduced this year was S. 18, my legislation to provide assistance for brownfields redevelopment. The first title of S. 8, Senators Smith and Chafee's Superfund reauthorization bill, had many provisions similar to those contained in S. 18. Unfortunately, there is disagreement about whether brownfields legislation should go first, or should be stalled until both parties resolve the many issues involved in comprehensive reform of Superfund.

Some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have suggested that a separate "brownfields" bill is a "feel good" measure, which would distract Congress from more important questions. I respectfully disagree. I think we should act now. Our communities need this legislation. And many of them need it very badly.

Mr. Chairman, I want to be clear that I remain very interested in revising Superfund, and would very much like to find an acceptable, bipartisan approach to such a bill. But I don't want controversies over Superfund to stall this critical Brownfields legislation. And, as I see it, enactment of a Brownfields bill is not only the right thing to do, but it would help promote a spirit of progress and bipartisanship on environmental legislation.

I think many of our witnesses today will help make the case for moving forward to address brownfields. I am especially looking forward to the testimony of Mayor Bollwage of Elizabeth, New Jersey. His city's experience shows that a concerted effort can turn contaminated lands into gold mines. It's an inspiring story --one of many. And hope it helps convince all of my colleagues that we should act now to enact brownfields legislation.