Opening Remarks of Senator Bob Smith
September 4, 1997

Good afternoon. I would like to thank everyone for coming to today's hearing on Superfund. This is the 10th hearing we have had on this issue over the past three years and I hope the this is the one that leads to action. Cleaning up toxic waste sites is not an issue for talk, it is one for action. The American people deserve no less, and we have talked enough. There have been over two hundred hours of formally scheduled discussions with the minority this year alone. We have been talking for the past three Congresses and there is unanimous agreement that the program needs to be overhauled. bow is the time to do it.

One of the interesting numbers we hear in the Superfund debate is that one out of four Americans lives near one of these toxic waste sites. This is unacceptable. There is also no need for this situation. We have the technology and resources to address most of these sites. We need to prioritize our efforts and make sure that our resources are not wasted on lawyers and bureaucracy. The focus of this program should be the cleanup of toxic waste sites. S. 8, The Superfund Cleanup Acceleration Act will put the focus where it belongs--on cleanup. We have spent over $50 BILLION dollars on this program over the last seventeen years and only managed to clean up a third of the sites. We can do better and we must do better. This bill will make better, safer, and faster cleanups possible.

I want to thank everyone in advance who has come to testify, especially Ms. Browner, who I have come to respect over the course of the discussion of Superfund. Ms. Browner has been instrumental in instituting some useful reforms in the Superfund program and she is to be commended for that. Senator Chafee and I have tried to incorporate a number of these reforms into the bill we have offered because we believe they go a long way toward improving the program. However, there is a limit to what Ms. Browner can do administratively and I feel Congress has a duty to do what it can as well.

Those of you who have followed the progress of the Superfund debate realize how far we have come. The bill we consider today is far different than the one offered in 1995. This bill was the result of hundreds of hours of discussions between staff, stakeholders and constituents. We have included the concerns and ideas of many different people, all of whom sincerely want to improve this program. I believe that the bill before us goes a long way toward addressing the problems in the Superfund program. It is time to act.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your leadership and assistance on this issue.