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House passes tough Superfund bill.

The House on Dec. 10 approved a Superfund extension that calls for $10 billion to be spent on cleaning up toxic-waste dumps over the next five years. This bill, however, is in many ways much tougher than the version passed by the Senate earlier this year. Resolving the differences may take weeks of negotiations between the House and Senate next year. Until then, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no authority to collect a tax from the petrochemical industry to fund cleanups. The original Superfund law expired at the end of September (SN: 10/5/85, p. 215).

During the final days of the House debate, the biggest battle was over how the cleanup program should be financed. A plan to create a tax that would affect almost all manufacturers was defeated in a close vote. Instead, the oil and chemical industries face a sharply increased tax on crude oil and chemical feedstocks to pay for the program.

The bill that finally emerged from the House was a victory of a coalition of environmentalist groups, including the Sierra Club and the National Audubon society, which had made reauthorization of Superfund the focus of a major lobbying effort. The groups helped push through a stronger bill than the House's energy and commerce committee had first proposed.

The final House bill would tighten standards and set more strict schedules to ensure faster cleanups. In the program's first five years, EPA lists only six out of hundreds of toxic-waste dumps as being completely cleaned up. The bill also requires extensive reporting of chemical emissions that seriously endanger human health.

The House rejected a controversial amendment that would have allowed victims exposed to hazardous waste to sue for damages in federal court. Nevertheless, the bill does allow citizens to sue EPA to force it to clean up a particular toxic-waste site.

now environmentalists are urging the Senate to accept the House provisions when they confer to resolve differences. Originally, the Senate approved a $7.5 billion program funded by a broad manufacturer's tax. In either case, the neogitated bill may face a presidential veto. The Reagan administration wants only a $5.3 billion program (SN: 3/2/85, p. 133).
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Author:Peterson, Ivars
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 21, 1985
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