Opening Statement of Senator Sessions
Brownfields Hearing
March 4, 1997

Mr Chairman: I believe that today's hearing into the creation of urban brownfields, and the barriers that impede their recovery for productive use, are a classic illustration of what can occur when good intentions go awry. As we look into the issues which will be raised over the course of the next several days, I have deep concerns that in its haste to remedy the problem of environmental contamination, Congress has enacted legislation with structural defects that lead to the kind of unforseen and costly unintended consequences we will have presented before us today.

In this case, passage of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 has led to these types of unintended consequences. Clearly, the problem of urban brownfields is a significant one, and we should seek to address this issue in the most effective and efficient way possible.

The problem of "brownfields" is self-evident. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of brownfield acres exist in major cities throughout the country. In fact, in many cities the amount of brownfield land present exceeds the total land area of Washington, D.C. This abandoned or underutilized land, which once was put to productive use, is often overlooked or ignored by future developers who fear exposing themselves to Superfund's drastic joint and several, strict and retroactive liability provisions. Further, the lack of finality and certainty created by a State's certification of cleanup serves to undermine incentives for restoring potentially contaminated brownfield sites.

Finally, the effectiveness of the actual cleanup programs, both in terms of cost and time, is often hampered by the tide of litigation which has resulted from these regulations. Our cities and families cannot afford the continuing loss in jobs or tax revenues that these brownfield areas create, and we should seek measures which will remedy the inherent problems that give rise to these situations. To this end, I look forward to hearing the testimony of the witnesses on these issues.