MARCH 5, 1997

Good morning. I would like to thank everyone for coming to this morning's hearing. We are here today to receive testimony on S. 8, the "Superfund Cleanup Acceleration Act of 1997."

I am going to be brief in my remarks. Frankly, the American people have been waiting too long for comprehensive Superfund reform, and I for one, don't want to waste any more time. We have expended a lot of effort on this subject over the past four years, and as a result of extensive negotiations we conducted in the last Congress, I believe that I can say that the number of areas we agree upon, significantly outnumbers the areas that we don't. In those areas we don't agree, I believe that we are close to reaching common ground.

Superfund came about in 1980 in an effort to quickly clean up the toxic waste sites that scarred our nation. We all agree that these sites need to be cleaned up. It is not right that one out of four of our citizens lives near a toxic waste site. Yet, the results of the Superfund program could be better. After 17 years, only 123 sites have been cleaned up and deleted from the National Priorities List. There are still more than 1200 sites left on the list and more are still being proposed. While some will suggest that more sites are being cleaned up now than previously, recent EPA testimony estimates cleanups are still taking 8 to 10 years to complete. The fact is, we can and should do a better and faster job of cleaning up these sites, and I am encouraged that everyone seems to agree on this point.

Administrator Browner, whom we will hear from today, has sincerely tried to improve the Superfund program during her tenure though the use of administrative reforms. I think our agreement in many of these areas is indicated by the fact that some of the provisions in S.8 were derived from the administrative reforms, and likewise, some of the EPA's administrative reforms were based on proposals that I had made in the last Congress. Yet, Ms. Browner has nonetheless, remained a vigilant supporter of comprehensive Superfund reform. I appreciate her position, and I agree with her.

Today, I hope we get past the rhetoric that clouds this issue. It would be unfair and untrue to state that anyone on this Committee doesn't want to cleanup toxic waste sites. That is not the reason for this bill. Instead, this bill recognizes that these sites are not being cleaned up fast enough. Our citizens and environment deserve better.

Today, we will hear from representatives of Federal, State and local organizations, from environmentalists, and from businesses large and small. I want to take the opportunity in advance to thank the witnesses for coming today. By the end of their testimony, I am sure we will have a clearer picture of how we should proceed toward reauthorizing this important legislation.