House Passes Bill Bolstering State Authority in Hazardous-Waste Cleanup

NEW YORK - MARCH 02: The heavily polluted Gowanus Canal on March 2, 2010 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The 140-year-old Brooklyn waterway has just been named as a Superfund site by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The move to cleanup of the Gowanus, which was opposed by the Bloomberg administration, will cost between $300 million and $500 million and could take 10 to 12 years. 
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Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
Jan. 10, 2014, 1:23 a.m.

The House passed le­gis­la­tion on Thursday to amend a law already on the books gov­ern­ing fed­er­al cleanup of Su­per­fund and haz­ard­ous waste sites.

The bill was ap­proved on a party-line vote of 225-188, with only five Demo­crats sup­port­ing the meas­ure, in­clud­ing Reps. Jim Costa of Cali­for­nia, Col­lin Peterson of Min­nesota, and Nick Ra­hall of West Vir­gin­ia. The nill is not likely to be taken up by the Demo­crat­ic-con­trolled Sen­ate.

The le­gis­la­tion — the Re­du­cing Ex­cess­ive Dead­line Ob­lig­a­tions Act — is a com­bin­a­tion of three sep­ar­ate meas­ures in­tro­duced by Re­pub­lic­an Reps. Cory Gard­ner of Col­or­ado, and Bill John­son and Bob Latta of Ohio. The pack­age of bills would give states the abil­ity to as­sign pri­or­ity to Su­per­fund cleanups man­aged by fed­er­al laws, im­pose state and loc­al laws on fed­er­al cleanup pro­jects, and block the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency from is­su­ing reg­u­la­tions for haz­ard­ous waste dis­pos­al in states where sim­il­ar reg­u­la­tions already ex­ist.

House con­ser­vat­ives used the bill’s pas­sage as a chance to put them­selves on re­cord in sup­port of elim­in­at­ing fed­er­al over­reach in the en­vir­on­ment­al sec­tor.

“We are five years in­to this failed ex­per­i­ment of in­creased gov­ern­ment spend­ing, tax­a­tion, and reg­u­la­tion,” Gard­ner said in a state­ment. “The res­ults are clear: The power to grow our eco­nomy and put Amer­ic­ans back to work lies in the private sec­tor. With more than 80,000 pages of new fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions pub­lished in 2013 alone, com­mon­sense re­vi­sions of ex­ist­ing rules and reg­u­la­tions are a vi­tal part of en­sur­ing busi­nesses that power our state and loc­al eco­nom­ies are giv­en the cap­ab­il­ity to grow.”

There was plenty of op­pos­i­tion to the le­gis­la­tion, however.

The White House is­sued a state­ment say­ing the pres­id­ent would veto the bill if it reached his desk. And more than 120 in­terest groups, in­clud­ing en­vir­on­ment­al ad­vocacy or­gan­iz­a­tions such as Earthjustice, the League of Con­ser­va­tion Voters, and the Nat­ur­al Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil, sent a let­ter to Con­gress op­pos­ing the meas­ure.

The le­gis­la­tion “sub­stan­tially in­creases the po­ten­tial for harm in com­munit­ies across the United States. As one in four Amer­ic­ans live with­in three miles of a haz­ard­ous-waste site, safe man­age­ment and prompt cleanup of tox­ic waste sites are es­sen­tial to our na­tion’s health and eco­nomy,” the sig­nat­or­ies wrote.

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