Senator Bob Smith
Opening Statement - Superfund Subcommittee
April 10, 2002
I want to welcome all of the witnesses who have come before this subcommittee to testify on an issue that I have been closely involved with for quite some time. Before I became chairman of the full committee in 1999, I had been the chairman of this subcommittee. Needless to say, I have quite an extensive background on Superfund. It would be a vast understatement to say that, historically, Superfund has been a challenging issue. And that challenge has not diminished with time.
We are entering a period where we are addressing some of the most complicated and complex Superfund sites – sites that do not allow for simple remediation. It is inevitable that these sites will take a longer period of time to clean up – that is simply a fact.
I know some will try to score political points by comparing the time it takes to clean up the sites of today, and the number of sites we clean up, with the less complicated sites of the past. Unfortunately, that comparison doesn’t paint an accurate picture. I am also aware that the Superfund tax will be the subject of political posturing. That tax expired in 1995 - a time when I was heavily involved in trying to pass comprehensive Superfund reform. It didn’t make sense to reauthorize a tax for a program that was broken. I have consistently held that position.
Superfund still needs to be reformed. If you don’t believe that to be the case, then come to New Hampshire and talk to anyone who has been involved in Beede Superfund site. It is a disgrace what the law has done to so many good people who were only trying to do the right thing. I have introduced legislation once again to address these problems, but so far there has been a lack of will to do the right thing.
Until we can fix the problems with Superfund, we shouldn’t consider renewing the tax. I want a Superfund program that is a success. One that will be fair and will clean up the problems created in the past. I have fought hard to get many sites in New Hampshire cleaned up, and I continue to do so. It has not been rare to fight to keep sites off of the Superfund list out of fears that listing would delay clean up efforts.
We must fix this law. For years there has been tremendous resistance to comprehensive reform. When I was chairman, I decided that we should try a piecemeal approach – one step at a time. We took a big step last year with our Brownfields bill. That effort took strong leadership and a bipartisan commitment for us to achieve our ultimate success. I hope we can take the next step toward comprehensive reform soon.
I want to welcome our witnesses today and thank them for sharing their thoughts on the Superfund program – a special welcome to Assistant Administrator Marianne Horinko. I appreciate and commend you for the approach you have brought to your office – one that encourages innovation and thinking outside the box.
If we are to meet the current and future challenges of Superfund, we must be able to think and act outside the box. A leading insurance company – AIG – will present one such approach today. This company has been on the forefront of innovative approaches to the financial side of Superfund and Brownfield cleanups since 1980. Their testimony raises some interesting approaches to Superfund that could provide cost savings to both the government and private sector. I know that the Department of Defense has utilized this approach and found it to be very effective in managing costs at a number of sites. I would certainly encourage EPA to take a serious look at this innovative concept.
I will be following up with EPA on this and other innovative ideas that will help to speed up cleanups and are in the best interest of the taxpayer. Superfund isn’t an easy issue, but we must continue to find ways to make it a better program for all involved. Again, I want to thank you all for your appearance before this subcommittee and I look forward to your testimony.