WASHINGTON - The high cost of Superfund and its alleged paucity of results has prompted formation of a new lobbying group. The Superfund Reform Group includes roughly 50 corporate and association members that embrace narrowing liability limits in pollution cases.
The group contends that of the more than $16 billion in fines collected from industry to clean up hazardous waste sites since 1980, only $3 billion actually has been spent on cleanups.
Further, of more than 1,200 Superfund-designated sites in the United States, only 293 have been cleaned to Superfund standards, at a total cost of $20 billion.
Much of that cost, the reform group notes, has gone to legal fees in lawsuits seeking to determine pollution liability.
Although the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. is interested in the issue of retroactive pollution liability, the Washington-based trade association has not joined the new Superfund Reform Group.
Spokesman Jack LaCovey said SPI is monitoring the issue ``and may become more active'' in related legislative coalitions. But SPI would ``probe our processor community'' before making a final determination on joining any such organization, he said.
As for its involvement in other national legislative campaigns in the 104th Congress, SPI has been active in regulatory reform as a member of the Washington-based Alliance for Reasonable Regulation. Legislation that would impose strict scientific and cost-benefit standards to federal agency rulemaking remains stalled in the Senate, however.
The Superfund group, with heavy backing from the National Federation of Independent Business and the Chemical Manufacturers Association, has as its chairwoman JoAnn Emerson, wife of eight-term Rep. Bill Emerson, R-Missouri. Emerson sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which does not have direct review of Superfund legislation.
Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, this month is expected to introduce Superfund reform legislation that frees former owners of land from paying cleanup costs if pollution in that land is found to threaten groundwater.
Oxley proposes eliminating such liability for those whose ownership ended before 1987; other backers of the measure would cut liability for owners before 1980.