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What to do about Superfund?

As a net GDP deflator, Superfund itself should carry a health warning: Lowering the income of individuals and businesses negatively impacts one's health.

Superfund is said to be the most costly failure in modern peacetime government. After more than 10 years and almost $9 billion, only 105 of 1,250 sites on the National Priorities List have been declared clean. Superfund was created by the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Liability Act of 1980. It was a federal response to the discovery of toxic waste beneath Love Canal in Niagara, NY. And although Love Canal has since proved to have no demonstrable human health risk, the legacy still animates environmental policy.

With reauthorizations and amendments in 1986 and 1990, Superfund is authorized to spend $15.2 billion, derived largely from a variety of taxes, including corporate profits tax, petrochemical taxes, and import fees. Superfund represents about 25 percent of the EPA's budget, yet the EPA itself has undertaken studies that have revealed that the risks posed by Superfund sites are low.

But transaction costs are high, as participants in the following CE roundtable bear witness. A Rand study estimates that as much as 88 percent of Superfund expenditures are consumed by lawyers' fees, consultants' fees, and other non-cleanup costs. It is estimated that about 3 percent to 5 percent is employed in beneficial waste removal. On average, one site is removed from the National Priorities List per week for every two that are added. This is why estimates of what the amount required ultimately to clean up the entire job--$1 trillion--are elusive at best. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that Superfund is in the blame industry. As Robert Crandall, senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, points out in a Center for the Study of American Business (Washington University, St. Louis) study on environmental regulation costs, "The liability provisions have created a disincentive for firms to be cooperative in cleaning up old sites, and they have virtually halted all private insurance for damages from toxic wastes."

Apart from Superfund itself, the impact of the EPA upon the U.S. economy is worth noting. In 1990, the agency estimated that complying with its own pollution control regulations was costing the nation $115 billion a year, or 2.1 percent of GDP. There are no solid estimates for the effects on the economic growth of Superfund. However, in a discussion paper, economists Dale Jorgensen and Peter Wilcoxson of the Harvard Institute of Economic Growth estimate that overall, the environmental compliance costs reduced economic growth by 0.2 percentage points a year over the last 10 years. In the absence of such policies, they reckon that real GNP would be 2.6 percent higher than its current level.

The obvious question facing us is how can something so economically imprudent last for so long? The truth is that there are a number of constituencies--apart from the aforementioned lawyers who collect fees--who favor Superfund. And don't forget the politicians who get votes and political support for things that directly cost them nothing. In addition, one thinks of the cleanup industry itself and the network of contractors, many of whom hire ex-EPA bureaucrats. Certainly, business opposition or temporization doesn't seem to have done much to close Superfund's gaping maw.

With the law coming up for reauthorization in 1994, CE invited Olin CEO John Johnstone Jr., who chairs the Business Roundtable's task force on Superfund, together with Minnesota Attorney General Hubert "Skip" H. Humphrey III, and AIG CEO Maurice "Hank" R. Greenberg to lead the discussion of how business might extricate itself from the regulatory mess while forming policy prescriptions that would do a better job at fulfilling the original law's intent. Since he was first elected attorney general in 1983, Humphrey has received notoriety for tough enforcement through Minnesota's Environmental Crimes Team, the so-called E-Team. CE asked him to share with attending CEOs from manufacturing, oil, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, insurance, and environmental concerns how business partnerships with state government can limit liability and initiate cost-effective cleanup where it's needed most. Regional accommodation is no substitute for ridding society of bad law. The trouble is that politicians prefer to conceal the true cost of such inefficiency. The public doesn't see this cost in the prices paid for goods and services. Even business, Crandall believes, has shown more interest in having competitors treated equally than in efficient control policies. When this changes, the Superfund mess itself will be ready for cleanup.


John W. Johnstone Jr. (Olin): Superfund was born in 1980, amid the hysteria caused by the Love Canal problem in which a Hooker Chemical facility poisoned parts of the Niagara, NY, area. The law was passed at the end of a lame duck Congress sometime between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Congress probably envisioned 100 or 200 sites and enacted a law that was heavily slanted toward punishing those responsible rather than cleaning up the pollution.

In September 1992, approximately 34,652 potential sites were identified, of which only 1,245 came under Superfund. Additional sites are being put on the list at a 2-to-1 ratio. And society is clamoring to find out why more of them aren't going on the list.

We talk about $700 million, billions of dollars, a trillion dollars to clean up these sites. When the number reaches the billions, people's eyes glaze over. The biggest issue, in my mind, with respect to the initial passage of Superfund, and particularly the reauthorization, is that it does not touch many individuals. It affects large corporations and insurance companies. Until the pain gets to be a little more universal, any proposed changes will encounter rough going.

We're looking at least at one year's GNP: If we all worked, didn't eat, didn't buy anything, and mailed all our incoming revenues to Washington, we could clean up the problem. And even that number may be understated if we continue to use the law as it currently is constructed. The law doesn't offer a perfect solution, nor do our current technologies.

I think Congress figured the sites would be cleaned up rapidly. But the timetable has stretched now from five years to 10 years. Now we're getting to the point where it would appear that a site that has not yet had any work done on it probably has a 15-year life cycle before completion.

The Superfund Act is up for reauthorization in 1994. Unless the broken program is fixed, its crippling costs will selectively but seriously undermine U.S. competitiveness. American industry will be haunted by the specter of bankruptcies, because if held to the current conditions of the law, many companies will not survive.

Robert J. Myers (Grumman): We have manufacturing facilities throughout the country. And we thought we understood the liabilities, but we've never been able to put them to bed. They seem to continue, and as people drop off, the liabilities go up. We're still looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Johnstone: The only way we're going to change Superfund is to light a fire under Congress. Reform should address three major flaws: the extravagant remedial standards, the unfair funding mechanism, and the punitive liability system.

Clearly, Superfund needs much more realistic, scientifically sound risk assessment to determine the extent and the costs of cleanup. Because the law requires the EPA to favor permanent remedies, cleanup orders often are based on exaggerated, hypothetical risks, including the possibility of a child entering a Superfund site and eating a spoonful of dirt there regularly for at least 70 years before he'd have a significant problem.

We need a risk assessment on a case-by-case basis. Amend the law so cleanups can be based on the actual or planned use of the sites. If you're going to build a hospital on the site, having it adhere to the drinking water standards is understandable. Building a golf course on the land is something else entirely. If it's remote from society, maybe the site just needs to be capped off.


James O. Edwards (ICF International): The fundamental problem is in the definition of clean. From the beginning, it was never really clear how clean is clean, and what the human health risks are in given situations.

William E. Flaherty (Horsehead Industries): I think we have to get the EPA out of the business of making health judgments. Members of the EPA are not qualified to make these judgments. Get the Center for Disease Control to rule on whether a location presents a health hazard. If it doesn't, then find alternative solutions: Put a fence around it.

There's no connection between the cost to our country for this cleanup and the people writing the laws. Look at Aspen, CO, which used to be a mining community and now has houses that start at $2.5 million to $3 million. The EPA has been trying to clean it up for 15 years. It wants to take half the earth surrounding Aspen and move it to Leadville, CO. And what it's going to do with it in Leadville is another subject.

The citizens of Aspen ran the EPA agents out of town. They went out and spent the money on a private health assessment, which determined they do not have a health hazard. Therefore, they're not going to move the earth. That's the first such revolution. I think you're going to see more.

Edwards: That seldom happens, though. In general, people with a lot of valuable property want the sites to be cleaned up. Since it's not their money, they don't care if it's a $5 million solution, a $20 million solution, or a $100 million solution. No one can tell these people that the $100 million solution isn't always the best one, because it does reduce risk: maybe from six additional leukemia cases per 100,000 30 years from now, down to 5.8 cases for that additional $50 million.

Johnstone: There's a tremendous need to develop new technology to deal with this mess. We have approximately 958 federal laboratories in the U.S. that have been working mostly on Defense Department activities that could easily put some portion of federal spending toward the development of remediation technologies.

Roy Serpa (enviroGuard): I've only been in the environmental business six months--my company uses a relatively new technology to remove metals from wastewater streams--and I'm amazed at the number of technologies that are being developed. The big problem will be gaining credibility for them.

Leo Liebowitz (Getty Petroleum): I found that the states and the local offices tend to interpret the rules as they see fit. So, the end results vary dramatically from one area to another, which just exacerbates the problem.

Edwards: But the EPA regional offices don't have much discretion. Some may be tighter than others in their interpretation, but anything that is fairly significant, either in expenditure or new technology, has to be approved in the program's central office.

Hubert "Skip" H. Humphrey III (Minnesota Attorney General): I find the EPA to be cooperative. But what you get depends on the people you deal with. We got a project called Best Demonstrated Available Technology approved rapidly through the central office in Cincinnati, which works for all regions.

Johnstone: Under Superfund, there's no incentive for the EPA to do anything but enforce existing standards and employ tested technologies. In fact, there's almost a disincentive to use new technologies, because if a potentially responsible party uses them and they fail, the EPA will make the PRP do it over again until it's right. The poor project manager, who's about 48 levels down in the system, is the guy who has to deal with your 10 acres. Don't rely on him to take any risks on your behalf.

Humphrey: In our Region Five, the EPA monitors what we do, but it gives us broad authority to deal with most matters. And it gives us a local contact to work with, rather than having to hunt down somebody. So, I think it's a fairly good system.

Phillip D. Ashkettle (Reichhold Chemicals): We can cut all kinds of local cleanup deals, but ultimately, we still run the risk of somebody coming back later and saying, "Hey, that's not the way it should have been done."

For most Superfund sites, many different PRPs have to coalesce to make a decision, and this group faces a big risk when it decides to try a new technology some local guys say is all right. But that's part of dancing around a maypole instead of coming to a conclusion. There's no closure: I can't say, "If I risk these dollars, then at the end of the road I know I'm done here."

Johnstone: And the stakes are enormous. We need a much fairer, broader funding mechanism. For the past 12 years, the majority of Superfund money has come from taxes and two industries, chemicals and petroleum. This ignores the fact that we all helped to create the hazardous waste problem. Thus, we all must be part of the solution.

The U.S. is the only country in the world that has a punitive Superfund law. Elsewhere, particularly in Europe, the government recognizes that industrialization benefited society. And, therefore, society should take on the responsibilities for cleanup.

With broader, fairer funding, government can better afford to clean up the Energy Department and toxic military sites which compose, at the moment, something over 10 percent of those on the National Priorities List. At present, the EPA typically orders a handful of private parties at a site to clean it up, triggering costly court battles to determine who's to blame.

The assignment of blame results from Superfund's structure, which is based on strict, retroactive, and joint and several liability. Strict liability means you can be held accountable for waste disposal practices that were legal and standard at the time they were used, or if you were the victim of illegal acts of waste disposal, or if you were directed by a state to act in the fashion you did. Retroactive liability means you're liable for activities that took place 20, 30, or 100 years ago. Joint and several liability means if you only contributed 1 percent of the waste, you could be held liable for 100 percent of the cleanup costs.

I feel you only should be liable for cleaning up the portion of a mess you willfully created. I support "the polluter pays" principle but would like to eliminate retroactive liability, because it is one of the major reasons we are all in the courts. President Clinton uttered one sentence in his address to Congress that may offer some promise in this area: "I'd like to use Superfund to clean up pollution for a change, and not just to pay the lawyers."

In a multiparty site, all the players are pointing fingers at each other--no one wants to accept the blame. So in mixed PRP sites, the first technique that was used for several years was, "Send in the lawyers." So we sent the lawyers . . .

R. Quintus Anderson (The Aarque Cos.): And each writes you a memo at the end of the month.

Johnstone: Right. That didn't work, but here's something that did--at least for us.

One of our senior guys who was running our chemical division took his 10 top managers and gave each of them a Superfund site of which they are now the site managers. They aren't environmental or legal types. They go to the meetings and provide a business perspective. Many times if you can introduce a businessman into the equation, you can get things settled out of court. For example, in hearings regarding an Ohio site, our people said, "This is ridiculous. They ought to hire a gymnasium to hold all of the lawyers." So, I wrote a letter requesting all the CEOs involved to send a businessman to the meeting. No lawyers or environmentalists. As a result, the cleanup of that site is moving at a lightning pace.

Meanwhile, there are opportunities within the current law that could rectify some of our problems. For example, when a company contributed only minimal amounts of waste, it could pay a proportional amount of money up front. The other solution that has some merit is mixed funding, which would put Superfund monies toward cleaning up orphan waste sites where there are no potentially responsible parties.


Arnold Pollard (CE): Has any organization or individual in federal government been receptive to your ideas about Superfund?

Johnstone: Yes, many people in Congress are. New Hampshire has 15 Superfund sites, and I think Congressman Bill Zeliff, R-NH, has 10 of them in his district. He is probably the most knowledgeable person I have met in the Superfund arena. He is adamant that the law must be changed. The level of Superfund knowledge in Congress is rising. When the guy who owned the local dry cleaning store for 25 years finds out he's on a Superfund site in a municipal landfill, he makes his Congressman aware of his plight.

Even the environmental people have come to the conclusion that Superfund isn't working. While they supported reauthorization in 1986, many of them now are saying, "Maybe it needs to be changed."

One of the things that can be said in defense of Superfund is that once the law was passed, it certainly got the attention of American industry. Responsible companies started to follow different levels of waste disposal practices.


Maurice "Hank" R. Greenberg (American International Group): I serve on the Business Roundtable Committee. We've been doing a lot of grass roots work across the country for the last couple of years. People are disgusted with Superfund, because nothing's cleaned up, and all the money goes to lawyers. On the flip side, on the business side, we had a heck of a time getting a coalition started, because the issue wasn't considered important by business or the insurance industry.

Eventually, we came up with a simple idea: Superfund must be replaced. We felt that retroactive liability and joint and several liability was insane. It was contrary to our legal history. In the beginning, we did not get much help from the Hill. But as this issue became more important, that has changed, as well.

We all agree that joint and several and retroactive liability ought to be eliminated--after all, why should it be OK as a Superfund standard but not for other negligence issues? But you can't stop there. We need a broad-based funding plan that calls for companies to pay a 2 percent or 3 percent surcharge on commercial and industrial premiums and an equal amount for self-insured companies. These funds would go into a national environmental trust fund.

I don't care if the funding comes from a surcharge on postage stamps or gasoline, although these could be difficult to sell politically. What's essential is that it must be broad-based. Since everybody benefited from industry's efforts, everybody ought to pay for the cleanup in the least onerous form possible without targeting any particular industry.

This is not the only solution, and it certainly isn't the perfect one, but it does eliminate the argument of who bears the cost. While I think most of my colleagues in the insurance business would sign on to a joint and several and retroactive liability change, some will say they wouldn't like using the insurance mechanism to collect a broad-based fund. If we keep fighting about that, however, everybody will go down in flames. And I have yet to hear many other solutions.

Richard D. Smith (The Chubb Corp.): I've been on similar podiums with Hank, and I think it's a major concession for him to say that the insurance industry should have an opportunity to address the issue itself.

Greenberg: That's a little sarcastic, Dick. You have all the time in the world to speak out.

Smith: I didn't want to speak out before you did.

Greenberg: Speak out now.

Smith: The problem with your suggestion, Hank, is that the 2 percent or 3 percent surcharge simply will not get the job done. So, we're still going to be looking for other methods of funding.

My recommendation would be to address the statutory change in retroactive joint and several liability, which will immediately eliminate some of the litigation. I don't believe in making the insurance industry the vehicle for the collection of funds, because I think that would be interpreted the wrong way by Congress.

Greenberg: Well, when we go to Congress with the change in law, somebody is going to ask, "How are you going to pay for it?" Maybe you'd like to say, "That's your problem." But it has to be paid for. It's not going to go away.

Smith: I don't want to say that your concept has no value, but I don't think it will alleviate the burden.

Greenberg: If you raised more money, you couldn't spend it in one year. History has shown that there is only so much you can spend in one year cleaning up sites.

Smith: That's a good point, but I don't think Congress gets too excited about limiting its collection.

Richard N. Daniel (Handy & Harman): If you don't propose funding up front, you don't have a chance, but I don't think Hank's formula does the job.

Smith: He proposes to make the insurance company a vehicle for the collection of cleanup funds, but not to have any responsibility for the payment of them.

Greenberg: Dick, you don't hear very well. I said . . .

Smith: That's about as insulting as the remark I made about you. |Laughter.~

Greenberg: Well, I'm working on getting it better. Just hang around a little while. |Laughter.~

Smith: You'll never do that, my friend. You'll never do it. (Laughs)

Ashkettle: Dick, you seem to be saying leave the funding the way it is. But I have a problem with that, because in order to pay the Superfund tax, we are taking reserves regularly out of our profits to handle all the environmental legacies that sit there. Moreover, we're spending untold dollars litigating our insurance carriers about who's supposed to be paying for this sin of the past. Leaving it alone isn't going to fix it for us. There has to be something that will stop Superfund--and the lawyers--from sucking the lifeblood from our business.

Smith: If we change the law on retroactive and joint and several liability, we will diminish or eliminate the litigation, because there will be no liability.

Greenberg: You're not going to get a change in the law unless you propose a change in funding. One can't be separated from the other. Anybody who thinks it can has his head buried in the sand.


Humphrey: I've listened carefully today, and frankly, I'm not sure I live on the same planet as the rest of you. By and large, things are working well in Minnesota. Let me give you some statistics.

We have 189 sites on our priority list. And, of those, some 42 sites are on the National Priorities List. Responsible parties are cleaning up over 70 percent of those sites already. We have a legislative liability system that is clear. We've consistently looked to responsible parties to clean up sites. And we've worked with them to negotiate settlements. Only about a half dozen suits in the state have gone to litigation. We try to work up front, get the matter solved, get the places cleaned up.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Superfund involves the redevelopment of contaminated sites and multiparty sites. In Minnesota, we decided to fix these problems rather than change the laws.

With regard to redevelopment of contaminated sites, particularly in urban areas, we established and passed a law called the Land Recycling Act, based upon several local test sites, which calls for the state to work with businesses, lenders, and developers to redevelop contaminated sites.

Why is this law necessary? Let's say you want to buy a piece of land. You think you've done all that needs to be done. And you ask the lender or insurance company for financing. It's not willing to close because it doesn't know what the liabilities are. So, we try to provide liability protection to developers and lenders who are not responsible parties and who clean up the site under the plan approved by the state. Essentially, we tell the new owner, "Work with the state to develop a plan to clean up the site, because it will give us some new business. Then put money in to clean up the site depending on what you're going to use the land for. Give us access to the land when we find out who the responsible parties are and allow us to go in and clean it up."

The attorney general's office, the Pollution Control Agency, the Economic Development Administration, and the lenders and the owners come together when we make this agreement. It's worked beautifully. This redevelopment plan was so popular in the legislature that we had only one vote opposing it after we showed it would work.

The act also provides manpower for the state agency, whose only job is to assist developers by reviewing and improving investigation and cleanup plans. We pay for this on a fee-for-services basis. Businesses are willing to pay for that if in exchange, they are assured the transaction will go through, and they're not going to be held liable.

I think this cooperative solution could be incorporated nationally, but it's important that the individual states manage their programs to ensure rapid review of the cleanup site. Now that's often difficult to do with multiparty sites, because they hinge on the allocation of liability. In Minnesota, we've tried to use neutral parties when dealing with these matters. Why go to court every time? Why not have arbitration, mediation, or whatever it takes to get the cleanup going?

We should be able to get the smaller entities out of the way. One of the things that's being talked about is a moratorium on the period of time in which you settle with the smaller players first and get them cleared away. Then you deal with the other entities. The Judicial Conference of the U.S. has suggested a number of solutions in this area, because it's clogging up the courts as well.

Many multiparty sites are municipal solid waste landfills--another word for dumps. This is where broad-based public funding can come into play. But I think we have to be practical politically. No Congress is going to say, "We're going to pay for the cleanups of these sites." We're going to have to target it and ask ourselves, "What are the priorities and where should the public dollars go?"

These questions probably should be decided by the federal government, but the states should have the authority to implement the answers. The federal government should monitor how the states are exercising their authority and make sure there is some uniformity. In Minnesota, we're always looking over our shoulder. Is the government going to override us every time we do something?

With our new land recycling law, we do not have the express involvement of the federal government. It has not said, "We are going to demand responsibility from parties that have signed on." But we don't have the overt authority to say, "Minnesota, you can come to agreement. And if you decide not to sue, or if you decide to hold off taking any of that responsibility, that is OK with us." We need that. We need that authority.

The federal government also might play a role in ensuring we're doing the right thing. It could audit the state government. I think most states would be willing to subject themselves to that kind of scrutiny. Also, having only one level of government charged with oversight would reduce the cost and help speed up cleanups.


J.P. Donlon (CE): If you don't have this federal authority, you cannot provide companies with closure. How do you resolve that?

Humphrey: We do have closure in the sense that the regional office and the EPA know what we're doing and have agreed to it. But the federal government should be a party to it, too. And it should be willing to accept the fact that a newcomer funding cleanup should be off the hook.

Donlon: But those who have entered into this agreement with Minnesota are still technically on the hook?

Humphrey: Not by the state. We are the delegated authority for the EPA. So, unless there is an override procedure--and the only reason I hesitate to give you an answer is that I suspect someplace there are certain emergency procedures for an override--we have the authority to do this from the federal government.

Edwards: There is a precedent for the EPA agreeing to such things. For example, the EPA, the Department of Energy, and Washington State have signed a tri-party agreement to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. ICF Kaiser Engineers is the lead contractor in this huge reservation in eastern Washington, where the first end reactors were made. The parties involved signed a 10-year plan with specific goals. If the DOE meets those guidelines, Washington State and the EPA probably will say the site is legally clean.


Anderson: Is Minnesota picking up that contingent liability for the future instead of the present landowner?

Humphrey: No, we're saying that there are other responsible parties. But if we wait around until either the state or the feds locate them, or until the litigation is over, closure will be years and years--and maybe decades--down the road.

Ashkettle: What about the PRPs when you chase them down? They can come back and sue the new property owner claiming that he added to the pollution level on the property.

Humphrey: We're not excusing any current additions. One of our requirements is that the new owner not add to the pollution.

Ashkettle: But nobody can prove that I polluted a Superfund site.

Humphrey: All I can tell you is that the system is working. I am sure it's not perfect, but it has gotten the lawyers out of the business a little bit.

Liebowitz: Skip, how could you get the lawyers out of it if you're saying PRP? The minute you say "potentially responsible party," the lawyers are going to be in it.

Daniel: Also, you don't know how difficult it is for a CEO to go to a board of directors of a public company, with today's interpretation of directors and officers liability, and tell it you want to put a facility on a site that has a problem.

Humphrey: Look, I believe states can be allies in your fight to knock down these obstacles. For example, we had a paper mill plant in Duluth. I thought the whole deal had been put together. In the last hour of the closing, I got a call from the governor saying, "The deal's shot unless you and I are willing to sign off with the excess environmental liability that the company is not willing to take on." We signed away. There were 900 jobs at stake in the middle of the '80s recession.

Richard Barth (Ciba-Geigy): What about cleanups that appear to go well beyond what is required, reasonable use of the land, or by virtue of the absence of a public health threat?

Humphrey: With a potential long-term cost because of possible future risks, we should finance it over a period of time. That's where insurance might play a role. It might be even long-term bonding or financing through the federal government.

I'm worried, of course, that my grandchildren or great-grandchildren are going to have to pay the balance, but the full cost shouldn't be borne by this generation.

Barth: Implicit in your comment is that there is a present or likely future health risk. When the approach to the issue makes that assumption, we are lost. There are cases where these are remote and unlikely scenarios to play out. And I think if a company disappears in 10 or 15 years and leaves a condition that matures into a true risk, the community hasn't been protected by not exacting some kind of tribute out of that company up front.


Daniel: The other reality is that, as CEOs, our ultimate responsibility is to guarantee the perpetuity of the corporation. So, let's say we make a deal with a reasonable attorney general, and the administration changes. Then we get somebody else. What happens next?

Humphrey: Companies change, too. There are risks. But I think when we go through the renewal of Superfund again, we should try to avoid the situation of getting into a direct confrontation. There are so many things we can agree on.


Donlon: Where does business go from here?

Anderson: We have to educate the press and the teachers. My kids come home from school and ask, "Daddy, why do you pollute?" They get that from the teachers.

Robert B. Sanborn (Orion Capital): I don't think there is a solution. I think we have to change the law and get rid of the retroactive and the joint and several liability. I like what the attorney general of Minnesota says. But I'm not so sure that all the attorneys generals in the rest of the country are as cooperative as he is.

Edwards: The prevailing climate is toward more regulation in this area than less. Despite the obvious problems with Superfund, most people say the real trouble is that a lot of money has been wasted and hasn't gone to clean up the sites, not that businesses have to spend too much to pay for it.

Daniel: We have to look at this from the CEO's standpoint. If we don't change the Superfund law, the amount of money spent on the legal end will continue to skyrocket. Today's boards are defensive; they want to protect everybody, and the way to do that seems to be throwing money to the lawyers.

Businesses are going to be the major participants in the funding of the cleanup. But we have to have rules. We have to know what we're cleaning up.

Humphrey: I am most troubled by your point, Dick, that companies always have to take a defensive position. That means I have to rethink some of the things I have been looking at, because we don't want entrepreneurs to be defensive. We want them to be innovative and constructive. Obviously, something has to change.

Liebowitz: We have to go to a broad-based, no-fault system. We can't continue to spend so much time and money on sites that don't truly need to be cleaned up, such as those in the boonies away from people. There isn't enough money in this country to clean up every site. Trying to do that, we'd all go broke.
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Title Annotation:CE Roundtable
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Article Type:Panel Discussion
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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