H.R. 2500. PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL SUPERFUND ACT OF 1980, ENTITLED "REFORM OF SUPERFUND ACT," 1996.

A SAMPLING OF THOUSANDS OF RECOMMENDED CHANGES TO A MAJOR PIECE OF ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION IS TO THE RIGHT,

FOLLOWED BY MY OWN TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION OF THE MEANING BEHIND THESE "REFORMS" BEYOND THOSE MENTIONED IN THE 'PURPOSES AND OBJECTIVES' SECTIONS BELOW. TEXTS DOWNLOADED FROM THE THOMAS WEBSITE,1-19-96.

FOLLOWING THESE EXCERPTS, AS AN ADDENDUM TO ALL THIS, IS PART OF A LETTER FROM TWO CHEMICAL COMPANY EXECUTIVES. IT URGES SOME SUPERFUND REFORM BUT HARDLY SEEMS TO SUPPORT THE KINDS OF CHANGES SHOWN IN THE EXCERPTS BELOW.

I INCLUDE THIS LETTER TO PREVENT READERS (AND MYSELF) FROM TURNING THESE COMPLEX ISSUES INTO A SIMPLE BATTLE BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG, EVIL INDUSTRY AND GOOD GOVERNMENT, WHICH IS JUST AS IRRESPONSIBLE AS CURRENT PUBLIC DISCOURSE AND IN MANY OF THE PROPOSED CHANGES BELOW SUGGESTING THAT THE MARKET IS ALWAYS GOOD AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION ALWAYS BAD.


FROM TITLE III: BROWNFIELDS AND VOLUNTARY CLEANUPS.

SECTION 301.
(a) FINDINGS- Congress finds the following:

(1) Brownfields are abandoned or underutilized industrial sites that
may contain environmental contamination, often located in urban
and economically distressed areas.

(2) Brownfields, which may number in the hundreds of thousands
nationwide, devalue surrounding property, erode local tax bases,
and prevent job growth.

(3) Despite potentially great productive value, prospective
developers avoid brownfields because of the uncertainty of cleanup
and development costs, which leads to construction on undeveloped
so-called greenfield sites, contributing to urban sprawl, creating
infrastructure problems, and reducing the amount of open spaces.

(4) Lenders and fiduciaries hesitate to finance or encourage projects
to redevelop brownfields because of liability for environmental
contamination and the uncertainty of cleanup and development
costs, and therefore brownfields remain undeveloped and the
environmental contamination is not quickly addressed.

(5) Redevelopment and cleanup of brownfields would reduce
environmental contamination, encourage job growth, and curb the
development of greenfields.

(6) State voluntary programs to address environmental
contamination, and Federal liability reforms to encourage lenders
and developers to invest in brownfield sites, can be very effective in
promoting the redevelopment of brownfields.

(b) PURPOSES AND OBJECTIVES- The purposes and objectives of this
section are to--

(1) significantly increase the pace of response activities at
contaminated sites by promoting and encouraging the creation,
development, and expansion of State voluntary response programs;
and

(2) benefit the public health, welfare, and the environment by
returning contaminated sites to economically productive or other
beneficial uses.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY THE REAL PURPOSES OF SUCH CHANGES WOULD BE?

HERE IS MY INTERPRETATION:

(x) THE REAL PURPOSES AND OBJECTIVES OF THIS SECTION:
(1) to promote voluntary efforts to clean up sites by the business community and other parties, while (without saying so) cutting back on the enforcement of existing laws, including the assessment of penalties for violating environmental laws
(2) under a series of statements lamenting the damage to the economy and to the morale of nearby communities caused by "brownfields" (abandoned and contaminated industrial sites), to blame the lack of development on high "clean-up" costs of the sites related to government regulations and fines, with the implication that if decreased the market will finally be able to provide an incentive to developers to clean up and improve the sites. [CONTINUED]


  • FROM TITLE VIII: AMENDMENTS TO OIL POLLUTION ACT OF 1990.

    SEC. 801. ENSURING COST-EFFECTIVE RESTORATION,
    REHABILITATION, REPLACEMENT, OR ACQUISITION OF NATURAL RESOURCES.

    Section 1006(c) of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (33 U.S.C. 2706(c)) is amended--

    (1) by striking 'a plan for the restoration,' each place it appears and inserting 'the most cost-effective, cost-reasonable, and timely plan for the restoration,'; and

    (2) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

    (6) NATURAL RECOVERY- In developing plans under this
    subsection, Federal, State, local, tribal, and foreign trustees
    designated under subsection (b) shall consider natural recovery to
    be a means of natural resource restoration.'

    801/1006(x) DECODING THE INTENT OF THE ABOVE:
  • (1) to make all environmental protection efforts subject to arguments over how costly they are, and to have the initial financial costs of the clean-up be the primary focus of discussion
  • (2) to promote doing nothing or doing very little as a valid response, by claiming that such efforts rely on "natural recovery": "natural resource restoration" thus means letting Nature heal itself.
    (3) when (1) and (2) are brought together as policy guidelines, it is hard to imagine when (2) would not win out




SEC. 802. MEASURE OF NATURAL RESOURCE DAMAGES.

Section 1006(d) of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (33 U.S.C. 2706(d)) is
amended--

(1) by amending paragraph (1)(A) to read as follows:

`(A) the cost of measures to restore, rehabilitate, replace, or
acquire the equivalent of, natural resources that are damaged
as a direct result of a discharge of oil, that are reasonable
and necessary to re-establish--

`(i) the measurable and ecologically significant
functions that such natural resources would have
performed in the absence of the discharge; and

`(ii) the uses of the natural resources by the public
that would have occurred in the absence of the
discharge;';

(2) in paragraph (1)(B) by inserting before the semicolon the
following: `, other than any dimunition in nonuse value';

802x. THE INTENT OF THIS SECTION ON OIL SPILLS:
(1) to make everyone debate what "significant functions" a natural area performs, and to what degree this "function" was interrupted by the oil spill, vs. focussing attention on the clean-up and who was responsible

(2) to define the worth of the natural resources of an area that were damaged primarily---perhaps even exclusively---in terms of the "uses" that the "public" would make of them, implying that if few people use the area than its value is minimal




IN SUM:

1) THE MARKET AND NATURE BOTH ENGAGE IN MORE PRODUCTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUP THAN THE GOVERNMENT. ENFORCING LAWS IS MUCH LESS IMPORTANT THAN FREEING MARKET FORCES AND NATURAL FORCES TO DO THEIR "NATURAL" WORK.

2) THE VALUE OF ALL NATURAL AND INDUSTRIAL SITES (AND THE WAY TO ASSESS DAMAGE TO THEM) IS DETERMINED SOLELY BY ITS "USE-VALUE," THE WAYS IN WHICH A MARKET ECONOMY PRESENTLY USES OR MIGHT USE THESE AREAS.

3) WHAT IS THE 'NON-USE VALUE' OF DOUBLESPEAK, THE LANGUAGE OF MANY OF THE PROPOSED REVISIONS?




FOR COMPARISON AND CONTRAST, CONSIDER THIS EXCERPT FROM A LETTER FROM CHEMICAL INDUSTRY EXECUTIVES TO THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6-26-96:

"We in the chemical industry are lobbying hard for Superfund reform. We want to see ... sites cleaned up quickly. We support a continuation of the taxes on the chemical and oil industries as part of that reform. We support continuing the corporate environmental tax (CET) that is paid by all industries, including ours. Together, these ... business taxes raise roughly $1.6 billion a year for cleanup. We also believe the business taxes raised for Superfund should be dedicated to cleanups. It is time to end the practice of diverting billions in Superfund taxes to pay for other government programs.

"On the question of who pays for cleanups at individual sites, we ask that Congress end the current system whcih can cause one party to pay for the mess caused by someone else. A variety of proposals have been put forward to remedy this inequity by the Clinton administation, by both political parties, and by a number of independent groups. The chemical industry has indicated its support for many of these proposals. During the Chemical Manufacturers Association's testimony before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee in April [1996], we commended both the Republican and Democratic proposals, made suggestions to improve both, and asked for a bipartisan solution this year....

J. Lawrence Wilson, Chairman & CEO, Rohm and Haas Co, Philadelphia
Alan R. Hirsig, President and CEO, Arco Chemical Co., Newtown Square

[But: Is $1.6 billion per year that much money, given the number of sites to be cleaned in entire country? Which lawmakers supported diverting Superfund money to other expenses? Do these industry executives (and others) support the other kinds of changes proposed for the Superfund act, like those excerpted above? Do they support a fuller public listing of ALL the pollutants released by plants?]




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