WASHINGTON (Jan. 14, 2002)—President Bush has signed into law a combined bill designed to limit small business liability for the cleanup of Superfund sites and brownfields, or urban toxic waste sites.
While the Jan. 11 signing is a “major victory” for tire dealers and retreaders, it was only two-thirds of what the industry needed, according to Roy E. Littlefield III, government affairs director for the International Tire and Rubber Association. ITRA had hoped to get another bill, granting small business exemptions from liability for used oil contamination, combined with the bill that passed.
Sponsored by Rep. Paul E. Gillmor, R-Ohio, the bill increases annual funding for brownfields cleanup to $200 million from the current $92 million, and grants purchasers of abandoned brownfields sites an exemption from paying for cleanup of pollution caused by the previous owners.
“Brownfields relaxes the restrictions when a former dealer wants to sell property the state has declared contaminated;” ITRA said in a Jan. 11 press release. “This legislation makes it easier for a new owner to purchase and develop the land, and makes the property available for tax credits.”
The new law also exempts small businesses from retroactive liability in the cleanup of municipal landfills. “In the past, numerous small businesses were hit with thousands of dollars in legal and cleanup fees for legally disposing of trash,” the release stated. The bill defines “small business” as any workplace with fewer than 25 full-time employees.
The House passed the bill by voice vote in the wee hours of Dec. 20, the Senate a day later. The bill will “shield innocent small-business owners from the nightmare of senseless Superfund liability,” Mr. Gillmor said in a prepared statement upon the legislation's passage.
However, the failure to include the used oil provisions still leaves tire dealers and retreaders at considerable risk, according to Mr. Littlefield. He cited a Superfund site in New Hampshire in which tire dealers from New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine are all facing thousands of dollars in liability, mostly because of used oil they disposed of legally.
“We tried to see Sen. Bob Smith's (R-N.H.) staff today, but everyone has headed for the hills,” Mr. Littlefield said Dec. 21. Mr. Smith, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is a major proponent of Superfund liability reform.
Mr. Littlefield said he and other ITRA representatives will meet with Mr. Smith's staff before Congress returns in late January to discuss the used oil measure. However, “it'll be hard to pass that by itself,” he said.