Statement of Senator Frank Lautenberg Superfund Reauthorization
September 4, 1997

As you all know, I was opposed to this quick hearing and markup because I thought we were making significant strides that would have lead to a bi-partisan bill.

After reviewing the draft bill of Senators Chafee and Smith, I must say I am very disappointed. Provisions in this bill weaken our committment to clean up some of these poisoned sites and put us in the business of warehousing toxic waste.

This won't make sense to most Americans. What we're saying is that while we can't find money to help rebuild our nation's schools, we will spend million to create environmentally-dangerous museums to our polluting past.

Other problems in the Chafee/Smith bill--.In 1993 and 1994, we agreed to give communities greater input in cleanup decisions and greater access to critical health information. This bill weakens those provisions.

In addition, sites that took household garbage and toxic wastes are now federal responsibilities. That lets corporate polluters off the hook and sticks the taxpayer with the bill. For instance, in a site in my home state of New Jersey, called Lipari Landfill, corporate polluters who would have been foreced to pay millions of dollars in clean up costs because they mixed their cafeteria garbage with industrial wastes.

Some will have argue that this change is fair because these sites were poisoned by so many entities -- from large corporate polluters to single individuals -- that it is impossible to assign blame and cost. This bill gives does give some needed relief to small business, municipal and county governments and certain small polluters.

And I agree that we should give relief to some of the small fish who did the least of the damage. But ultimately the parties helped the most by this bill are the large polluters who caused the most damage. Why are we letting them off the hook?

In fact, I think the relief for small business, for instance, in the bill seems very inadequate. Their relief is only for what they do in the future. They are still liable for past damages.

Mr. Chairman, as the public tells us it wants greater environmental protection, what does S. 8 provide? It provides less. It provides for fewer cleanups. It makes it easier for polluters to saddle the taxpayer with the bill. It will leave pollution on site and call the cleanup complete.

If the goal is to draft a bill that will become law, I would urge the reopening of bipartisan negotiations that will lead to a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden and a victory for our environment. Let's fight for more. Not less.