Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I don't know about everybody else. But I'm having a little trouble adjusting to Washington after the long recess. For one thing, I've been struggling to remember all of those odd Superfund acronyms.

Believe it or not, when I was in Bozeman, and up at Flathead Lake, I didn't hear a single thing about RODs, RAPs, RARs, or RACS. Not even TAGs or CAGs.

I'll tell you what I did here, again and again.

People want us to get on with the nation's work. To shift from confrontation to cooperation. To listen to each other's point of view, and strive for bipartisan agreements that reflect common-sense balance.

The budget agreement is a great example.

This Committee can provide another great example, by writing a solid, bipartisan Superfund bill.

The Democratic members of the Committee want a Superfund reform bill.

And we know that you, Mr. Chairman, and our Subcommittee chairman want a bipartisan bill.

We've made progress. The draft Chairman's Mark makes significant improvements, in part reflecting the bipartisan negotiations that occurred in June and July.

We are pretty close to an agreement on several important sections of the bill, including provisions:

--to give local citizens a greater voice in Superfund cleanup decisions,

--to make it easier to return land to productive use at so-called "brownfields,"

--and to improve Superfund cleanup standards.

That's good news.

But the news is not all good. From my perspective, the Chairman's mark stills falls short, in several important respects.

Some provisions of the proposal would weaken the protection of public health and the environment, generate more litigation and delay, and let some responsible parties off the hook without good justification.

Let me be more specific, about a few important issues.

The first is whether we should prefer cleanup plans that treat hazardous waste, rather than just covering it up and leaving it there.

Current law requires treatment in some cases where it doesn't really make sense. We ought to fix that. In Superfund lingo, we should narrow the preference for treatment.

But in some other cases, there are very good reasons to prefer treatment, in order to fully protect public health.

The Chairman's mark contains a preference for treatment in certain situations. That's an improvement. But I am concerned that the preference is too narrow.

Another case where the bill would weaken protection is natural resource damages.

Again, the Chairman's mark makes some improvements.

But, among other things, there is still the question of how to take the inherent, or intrinsic, value of a resource into account.

It's an important issue. If we preclude the consideration what the bill calls "non-use value," we will undermine the whole point of Superfund's provision for restoring natural resources.

Take a remote wilderness area that's been damaged by pollution over many years. It can be restored. We can remove the waste, revegatate hillsides, and replant stream banks. It takes some time and money. But it can be done.

However, if we're only allowed to consider the uses that the wilderness provided, to humans, we'd do much less. Maybe we'd just put in some hiking trails near town, or expand the parking lots near some fishing holes. After all, would replace the lost human uses--the hiking and fishing days.

But if we take that approach, we completely overlook the intrinsic value of a remote mountain wilderness area. The same would be true of a damaged river or seacoast.

And the public, including future generations, would be badly shortchanged.

The third issue relates to the so-called "codisposal" sites, the large landfills that handled both household garbage and industrial hazardous waste and that may involve hundreds of potentially liable parties.

We all agree that the pizza parlors, boy scout troops, and similar entities should be eliminated from the Superfund system.

But I'm not convinced that, having done that, we also need to eliminate the liability of financially viable companies that generated large amounts of hazardous waste.

I just don't understand why taxpayers should pick up their tab. Or, alternatively, why we should shift money away from cleanups in order to provide relief for these companies.

There other issues, like reopening settled cleanup decisions, and how we create an appropriate state/federal partnership.

I hope we can address those issues in the hearing.

Let me say again: we've made a lot of progress. But we still have a long way to go.

My hope is that we can resume our bipartisan negotiations in order to resolve our remaining differences.

I continue to believe that this approach is most likely to produce a bill that's good for the economy and good for the environment.

That's what we did last Congress, when we wrote a bipartisan bill reforming the Safe Drinking Water Act that the Senate passed by a vote of 99-0.

I remain confident that, under our Chairman's leadership, we can do it again.