WASHINGTON-Rubber manufacturers and tire dealers are unhappy that efforts to reform Superfund died with the 103rd Congress. ``We, of course, had hoped for reform of the Superfund liability provisions,'' said Charles D. ``Tony'' Hylton III, director of communications for the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association. ``It's a...shame they couldn't get it done. But we'll keep fighting for liability reform, you can bet on that.''
Carol M. Browner, administrator of the Environmental Protec-tion Agency, and several members of Congress read the elegy for Superfund Oct. 5, three days before Congress recessed for the November election.
Both houses will return after the election to consider the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, but Ms. Browner and key legislators made it plain there would be no time in the lame-duck session for Superfund.
``The clock has run out on our efforts to enact badly needed reforms of the Superfund program,'' said Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Despite ``overwhelming bipartisan support'' among legislators, businessmen and environmentalists, ``the desire of some parties to gain just a little bit more in the legislation threatened to upset a fragile compromise,'' he said.
Ms. Browner was more upbeat, however, citing the coalition for Superfund reform that was forged this year. ``I remain committed to building a consensus up front as the best way to achieve strong environmental protections that benefit all Americans,'' she said.
Small-business owners such as tire dealers and small rubber manufacturers had particularly wanted liability reform, since they often have been drawn into expensive Superfund cleanups through third-party lawsuits by major polluters, who want to foist their expenses on others.
In Minnesota, for example, 70 tire dealers were sued by large companies because they contributed scrap tires to a Superfund site. In nearly every case, the dealers found it cheaper to pay the amounts demanded than to defend themselves in court.
This year's Superfund bill contained provisions for small waste generators to settle quickly with the EPA and avoid further liability. Third-party allocators would have been responsible for apportioning liability among all waste contributors to a Superfund site.