Mayor Article

Three House Panels Work Toward Brownfields/Superfund Reform Agreement

By Kevin McCarty

Negotiations are underway among three House Committees — the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the House Commerce and the House Ways and Means Committee — in an effort to reach a House consensus on legislation reforming the nation’s Superfund law and providing help to communities in redeveloping brownfields.

Leaders of the three Committees are now working to craft a legislative agreement, an effort that was prompted by a directive from Speaker Dennis Hastert (IL) to prepare a brownfields/Superfund reform package for House action before the Congress adjourns this year. The House Commerce Committee approved its legislation (H.R. 2580) on October 13, and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved its legislation (H.R. 1300) in early August. While these two Committees are working on the programmatic issues, the House Ways and Means Committee is responsible for finding the taxes which will provide the revenues to finance the Superfund Trust Fund. It is this Trust Fund that pays for cleanups of the nation’s most contaminated sites, known as Superfund sites.

To date, the House Ways and Means Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Bill Archer (TX), has been resisting taking action on the tax provisions in support of the legislation, arguing that the panel members need to know what programmatic elements are included in the agreement between the House Commerce Committee and the House Transportation Committee.

In addition, Ways and Means Chair Archer has supported additional reforms to the Superfund law as a condition for reinstating any taxes to fund the Superfund Trust Fund, having argued that the reforms contained in the House Commerce bill (H.R. 2589) and the House Transportation Committee (H.R. 1300) don’t go far enough.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s bill, the “Recycle America’s Land Act” (H.R. 1300), which the Conference of Mayors is strongly backing, assumes restoration of expired federal excise taxes which until 1995 funded the Superfund Trust Fund.

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