There is one summary for H.R.4161. Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Introduced in House (03/24/1994)


Title I: Liability

Title II: State Implementation

Title III: Remedy Selection

Title IV: Funding

Comprehensive Superfund Improvement Act - Title I: Liability - Amends the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to limit liability under such Act to actions involving hazardous substance releases occurring after December 11, 1980 (thus, eliminating retroactive liability), subject to the conditions of this Act. Makes such limit inapplicable to actions occurring before such date which were contrary to law. Provides for reimbursement from the Retroactive Liability Fund as provided by this Act.

(Sec. 102) Sets forth retroactive liability provisions for actions which occurred before December 11, 1980. Bars reimbursement from the Retroactive Liability Fund to potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for construction costs if construction of the response action has been completed by January 1, 1994. Requires the President, if a PRP is conducting operation and maintenance (O&M) related to the action as of January 1, 1994, to assume the future costs of O&M and reimburse the party for costs incurred. Provides for reimbursement of construction costs for response actions not completed by such date, but only after the construction is completed. Directs the President to use the Retroactive Liability Fund to pay for all response action costs for sites discovered after such date.

Establishes provisions for actions for which liability occurred before and after December 11, 1980. Permits PRPs conducting O&M related to the response action as of January 1, 1994, to petition the President for an allocation of O&M costs. Provides for reimbursement from the Retroactive Liability Fund of O&M costs attributable to actions occurring before December 11, 1980. Permits PRPs to petition for allocations of construction and O&M costs where actions have not been completed by January 1, 1994. Provides for reimbursement of O&M and construction costs attributable to actions occurring before December 11, 1980. Directs the President to use the Retroactive Liability Fund to pay for all costs attributable to actions occurring before December 11, 1980, for sites discovered after January 1, 1994.

(Sec. 103) Provides that persons considered to be qualified organizations under provisions of the Internal Revenue Code governing charitable contributions who are grantees of conservation easements with respect to real property on which a facility is located shall not be considered as owners or operators, for purposes of determining liability for removal and response costs, unless they have caused or contributed to the release of hazardous substances.

Establishes a rebuttable presumption that a defendant who has acquired real property has made all appropriate inquiry into previous ownership and uses of the property if he establishes that, immediately prior to or at the time of acquisition, he obtained an environmental assessment of the property to determine the presence of hazardous substances, including a review of specified records of the previous ownership and use of such property.

(Sec. 104) Absolves persons who have resolved liability to the United States or a State in an approved settlement proceeding of liability for cost recovery regarding matters addressed in the settlement.

(Sec. 105) Provides that persons who own or operate real property that is contiguous to or otherwise situated with respect to real property on which there has been a release of a hazardous substance and that may be contaminated shall not be considered to be an owner or operator for purposes of determining liability. Authorizes the President to issue assurances of no enforcement action to such persons and grant protection against cost recovery and contribution actions.

(Sec. 106) Requires the President to issue regulations to define certain terms as they apply to liability of lenders and financial service providers.

Excludes from the definition of "owner or operator" (thus, protecting from individual liability) fiduciaries who hold legal title to, are the mortgagees or secured parties with respect to, control, or manage, any facility or vessel at which a release occurred for purposes of administering an estate or trust of which such vessel or facility is a part.

(Sec. 108) Makes liable parties who accept or successfully appeal the results of the allocation of responsibility under title V of this Act to be liable only for, with respect to National Priority List (NPL) sites, their assigned share of the costs of: (1) removal or remedial action incurred by the United States, a State, or an Indian tribe; (2) response incurred by any other person; and (3) any health assessment or health effects study. Requires the orphan share of an NPL site to be paid out of the Hazardous Substance Superfund (Fund) or the Retroactive Liability Fund.

(Sec. 109) Makes PRPs or liable parties who fail to perform response actions at NPL sites subject to specified civil action. Requires reimbursement by Superfund of PRPs who perform and pay for response actions at NPL sites. Authorizes liable parties who perform and pay for such actions to recover costs as creditor parties as provided under title V of this Act.

(Sec. 110) Directs the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to appoint panels of administrative law judges to perform expedited administrative proceedings, to be known as "binding allocations of responsibility (BARs)," for purposes of determining the liability of PRPs at NPL sites. Provides that BARs shall not address or affect liability concerning damages to natural resources.

Provides for the initiation of a BAR by the filing of a petition with the EPA Office of Administrative Law Judges by the Administrator or a State where the site is located.

Exempts de micromis parties (parties that a panel determines contributed only 100 pounds or liters of material containing hazardous substances at the facility or such amount as determined by the Administrator) from liability to the United States or to any other person for response actions or for past, present, or future costs incurred at the site.

Requires final BARs to be issued within 18 months of the publication of a notice of petition (or 24 months for cases of exceptional complexity). Bases the assigned share of liability on specified allocation factors, including the ability to pay. Requires the Administrator to make firm offers of settlement to all de minimis parties (parties that contributed only one percent or less of the total quantity of hazardous substances present at the site). Makes a BAR decision binding as to all past, present, and future liability for response costs and for contributions in civil proceedings.

Permits judicial review of final BAR decisions.

Sets forth procedures for recovery by creditor parties.

Provides for stays of certain pending enforcement actions and private party litigation until a BAR is issued.

Authorizes any group of PRPs to submit a private allocation for the NPL site, to be known as a "voluntary binding allocation of responsibility," to the allocation panel.

Provides that a BAR shall constitute a permanent determination of the assigned share of a liable party and of the orphan share and, except for specified additions to the orphan share and judicially mandated changes, shall not be subject to any change for at least five years after the date of final decision. Permits a new BAR only if the request demonstrates that due to new information not reasonably available during the first BAR, a 35 percent or greater increase in total waste-in volume has been discovered.

(Sec. 111) Exempts qualified redevelopers from liability for costs or damages with respect to hazardous substance releases.

(Sec. 112) Extends a current exemption from liability for response action contractors under Federal law to State and local law and expands the activities considered to be response actions.

Excludes such contractors from the definition of "owner or operator" for purposes of limiting liability.

Provides a limitation on actions against response action contractors.

Title II: State Implementation - Authorizes States to apply to the Administrator to carry out response actions and enforcement activities at all facilities listed or proposed for listing on the NPL. Grants a State such authority if it possesses the legal authority, technical capability, and resources necessary to conduct response actions in a manner consistent with this Act. Makes such States eligible for response action financing from the Fund and the Retroactive Liability Fund. Requires States to pay ten percent of the costs of all response actions for which the State receives funds from the Fund. Makes such cost-sharing requirement inapplicable to States that receive funds from the Retroactive Liability Fund.

(Sec. 201) Authorizes a State to select a response action that achieves a level of cleanup that is more stringent than required if it agrees to pay for the incremental increase in response cost attributable to achieving the more stringent level.

(Sec. 203) Directs the President to: (1) maintain records of the costs incurred in connection with any oversight contract or arrangement for remedial investigations or feasibility studies; and (2) establish an administrative procedure under which a party that conducts a response action may contest the costs incurred in such oversight. Requires oversight costs exceeding 50 percent of the response costs incurred by the responsible party to be paid by the Fund.

Title III: Remedy Selection - Authorizes the President or an authorized State to take immediate risk reduction measures whenever a release poses an imminent and substantial danger to public health. Prohibits the President or a State from instituting long-term remediation measures. Authorizes the use of the Fund for such measures, but permits the President to recover costs from liable parties as well.

(Sec. 302) Applies the hazard ranking system to a site or facility only after the site or facility has undergone immediate risk reduction measures. Applies such requirement to sites and facilities to be newly listed on the NPL and to any sites already listed for which remedial investigation and feasibility studies have not been conducted.

(Sec. 303) Directs the President or a State, as appropriate, to prepare a long-term response plan for an affected facility. Authorizes PRPs to prepare and carry out certain elements of such plan. Requires such plans to address: (1) site characterization; (2) risk assessment; (3) recommendations made by community advisory councils; and (4) response option identification.

Requires plans for: (1) facilities to be newly listed on the NPL after this Act's enactment date; (2) facilities or sites listed on the NPL for which remedial investigations and feasibility studies have not been conducted; and (3) facilities or sites on the NPL for which such investigations and studies have been conducted but for which contracts have not been executed for remedial design and action. Directs persons carrying out remedial investigations to assess risks to human health and the environment, separately evaluating current and likely future risks.

Directs the Administrator to create a Community Advisory Council for each facility listed on the NPL to provide information to PRPs, the Administrator, and the State regarding the future use of the facility and affected off-site areas and resources.

Requires response option identifications under long-term remediation plans to provide for cost-benefit analyses on containment, remediation, monitoring, delisting, and institutional controls.

Directs the President to promulgate and include in the national contingency plan guidelines for conducting cost/benefit analyses of response actions conducted under CERCLA.

(Sec. 304) Revises provisions regarding selection of remedial actions to require the President or a State, after completion of a long-term response plan, to select the response that best achieves an acceptable level of residual risk reduction at the facility or site.

Sets forth factors to be considered in selecting such actions, including site-specific impacts, economic impacts on PRPs, and costs and benefits of options. Provides preferences for actions that significantly reduce the volume, toxicity, or mobility of the hazardous substances or the exposure to such substances.

Extends site or facility boundaries to include areas subject to easements or other institutional controls with respect to response actions.

Makes selections subject to judicial review.

Requires implementation of an action within 60 days after the selection has been made and: (1) an appeal has been filed and a court has acted on the appeal; or (2) the time for filing an appeal has expired and no appeal has been filed.

Repeals certain cleanup standards.

(Sec. 305) Requires the review of selected response actions at least once every five years to assure that human health and the environment are being protected. (Currently, such review is required for actions that result in hazardous substances remaining at the site.)

(Sec. 306) Provides for delisting of sites or facilities from the NPL after an action achieves the cleanup goal.

Title IV: Funding - Amends the Internal Revenue Code to extend environmental tax and certain Superfund provisions for a period of five years. Increases the aggregate tax which may be collected and credited to the Fund. Extends the deadline for repayment of advances made to the Fund from December 31, 1995, to December 31, 2000. Extends the authorization of appropriations for the Fund through FY 2000.

(Sec. 402) Increases the environmental income tax. Provides that only 50 percent of such taxes received in the Treasury shall be deposited into the Fund in tax years between December 31, 1994, and January 1, 2000.

(Sec. 404) Establishes the Retroactive Liability Fund. Appropriates 50 percent of revenues from the environmental tax to such fund in addition to certain environmental fees and assessments on insurance companies.