WASHINGTON—``Fair-share'' liability allocations once again are among the key provisions of the Senate Republican Superfund reform package. The GOP bill for the 105th Congress was introduced Jan. 21. The bill also contains a liability exemption for recyclers of scrap rubber and other recovered materials. But a repeal of retroactive liability—which forces companies to pay for cleanup of old toxic wastes even though they were disposed of legally—is not in the legislation.
Many in the rubber industry—especially tire dealers and small rubber manufacturers—are disappointed over retroactive liability, although they see the bill in general as helpful.
Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., co-sponsor of the bill, made it plain he still favors the repeal of retroactive liability, but doesn't feel it has a chance of surviving Democratic opposition.
``I believe that retroactive liability is fundamentally unfair, and if I had my way, I would repeal it,'' he said. ``Some of my colleagues see things differently.''
As in last year's Superfund legislation, the new bill hands over the apportionment of liability to impartial, government-appointed allocators. Waste generators who accept the allocators' payment decisions will be spared from ``third-party'' lawsuits in which big polluters try to force smaller gen-erators to pay more than their share.
No polluter has to accept the allocators' decision. But if he appeals and loses, he not only has to pay that share, but also is subject to joint-and-several liability, in which one polluter is liable for the entire cleanup. Under the bill's provisions, those who settle with the allocators are exempt from joint-and-several liability.
Besides the exemption for recyclers, the bill gives exemptions to businesses with fewer than 30 employees or less than $3 million in annual gross revenues; de minimis exemptions to those who contributed less than 1 percent of the total waste at a pre-1997 Superfund site; and de micromis exemptions to those who contributed less than 110 gallons or 200 pounds of waste at any site.
In a sort of counter-proposal, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., has introduced a bill addressing only the question of ``brownfields''—abandoned urban industrial sites.
Mr. Smith said Mr. Lautenberg's bill was ``fine,'' but insisted far more can be accomplished this year in Superfund.