WASHINGTON-The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has approved a Superfund reauthorization bill that, among other things, offers a liability exemption on scrap rubber and other materials stored at waste sites for recycling purposes. Less than one week earlier the House Public Works and Transportation Committee passed its own version of Superfund reauthorization, after rejecting a member's effort to end retroactive liability for potentially responsible parties in Superfund cleanups.
The two bills are still seeking full Senate and House approval.
The Senate Superfund bill, approved 13-4 Aug. 3, contains provisions to expedite liability settlements for small businesses. But an attempt by Sen. Robert Smith, R-N.H., to eliminate retroactive liability was defeated.
The recycling provision was offered in the revised bill for final consideration in the committee by Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. It covers rubber, scrap paper, plastic, glass, metal, textiles and batteries.
Under the provision, any person who contributed any of these scrap materials would be exempt from having to pay a share of the cleanup if they can prove they intended the materials for recycling.
To obtain the exemption, the generator would have to show:
The materials were commercial grade;
A market existed for the recycled materials;
A ``substantial portion'' of the materials were offered for sale as feedstocks for product manufacture; and
The materials could have replaced virgin materials in product manufacture.
The generator also would have to demonstrate that he took ``reasonable care'' to ensure the materials were handled, stored and processed properly according to all applicable laws and regulations. Valid permits, receipts for recycling transactions and copies of inquiries to government agencies would be among the items that could prove reasonable care.
It is still unclear how the committee defines ``scrap rubber'' for the purpose of the bill. A committee spokesperson said it applied only to shredded tires, but other sources said they understood whole tires were also covered.
Encouraging recycling and removing one more point of liability for small businesses were the reasons for the amendment, according to the spokesperson.
``By and large, these people would be covered anyway by the provisions for de minimis and de micromis settlements,'' she said. These proposals would exempt very small generators from liability and provide expedited settlements for somewhat larger, but still small, responsible parties.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., offered an amendment to further expedite small business settlements, which passed. But Mr. Smith's amendment on retroactive liability failed, despite his insistence that the committee would ``bypass the chance for real reform'' without it.
The House Public Works and Transportation Committee passed its Superfund bill, containing provisions for small business but none for recycling, on July 28.
Rep. Bill Zeliff, R-N.H., tried in subcommittee and committee hearings to pass his amendment eliminating all liability for disposal of hazardous substances at a Superfund site before Jan. 1, 1987.
But his amendment failed by 25-13 in the subcommittee and 42-20 in the full committee.
The Superfund bill was not extensively changed from the version passed in the House Energy and Commerce Committee May 18. It retains retroactive and joint-and-several liability, but uses them mainly as threats to get waste generators to accept the judgments of a third-party.