Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Reported to Senate amended (05/19/1998)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Title I: Brownfields Revitalization

Title II: State Role

Title III: Local Community Participation

Title IV: Selection of Remedial Actions

Title V: Liability

Title VI: Federal Facilities

Title VII: Natural Resource Damages

Title VIII: Miscellaneous

Title IX: Funding

Superfund Cleanup Acceleration Act of 1998 - Title I: Brownfields Revitalization - Amends the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to direct the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish programs to provide grants to eligible entities (including local government units, redevelopment agencies, States, and Indian tribes) for site characterization and assessment of, and performance of response actions at, brownfields facilities or to capitalize revolving loan funds. Defines a "brownfield facility," with exceptions, as real property, the expansion or redevelopment of which is complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance.

Directs the Administrator to offer to enter into agreements with eligible States to make capitalization grants to further objectives of this Act. Authorizes such agreements with cities, counties, or regional associations of governments, provided the covered area has a population greater than one million and the State has elected not to enter into an agreement. Requires entities eligible to receive such grants to establish brownfields revolving loan funds. Makes entities in areas covered by such agreements eligible to receive assistance from State loan funds in lieu of grants from the Administrator. Requires non-Federal contributions to such funds of at least 20 percent of the amount of the capitalization grant.

Provides funding for the brownfields grant program from the Hazardous Substance Superfund (Fund) for FY 1999 through 2003.

(Sec. 102) Adds CERCLA provisions requiring the Administrator to provide technical and other assistance to States to establish and expand qualifying State voluntary response programs, comprised of elements including public participation opportunities, oversight and enforcement authorities, and certification mechanisms.

Provides funding for such programs from the Fund for FY 1999 through 2003.

(Sec. 103) Restricts authority to take enforcement actions under CERCLA in cases of hazardous substance releases subject to a State response plan. Authorizes the President to bring enforcement actions in certain instances, including cases where a State requests assistance or is unable to conduct a response action or there is a public health or environmental emergency or migration of contamination across State lines.

(Sec. 104) Adds CERCLA provisions governing owner-operator status of persons owning or operating property contiguous to a release site. Absolves such persons of liability as owners or operators, subject to certain conditions.

(Sec. 105) Absolves from liability for response actions bona fide prospective purchasers to the extent liability at a facility for a release or threat thereof is based solely on ownership or operation of a facility. Gives a lien upon a facility to the United States for unrecovered response costs in any case in which there are such unrecovered costs for which the owner is not liable by reason of this Act and the facility's fair market value has increased above that which existed 180 days before the action was taken.

(Sec. 106) Deems a person, with respect to defenses to liability of an owner of after-acquired property, to have undertaken appropriate inquiry into the property's previous ownership and uses if the person establishes that inquiries were undertaken in accordance with specified requirements (compliance with an American Society for Testing and Materials standard or with standards issued by the Administrator). Requires such owners to have exercised appropriate care with respect to the hazardous substance concerned to defend against liability. Deems the appropriate inquiry requirements to be satisfied by a site inspection and title search that reveal no basis for further investigation in the case of property for residential or similar use purchased by a nongovernmental or noncommercial entity.

Title II: State Role - Directs the Administrator to seek to transfer to States or Indian tribes responsibility to perform response actions at non-Federal National Priorities List (NPL) facilities by: (1) authorizing States to apply requirements of a State cleanup program in lieu of CERCLA requirements; or (2) delegating authorities pertaining to technical investigation, evaluation, risk analysis, alternatives development, remedy selection, remedial design and action, operations and maintenance, information collection, and allocation of liability. Prescribes application procedures, including conditions to be met by States seeking authorities.

Sets forth requirements for an expedited authorization program for evaluating State applications.

Authorizes the Administrator to withdraw transferred responsibilities from States that fail to meet stated conditions after providing an opportunity to correct deficiencies.

Sets forth conditions under which the Administrator may take emergency removal actions or the President may bring administrative or judicial enforcement actions at facilities at which responsibilities have been transferred.

Provides for the removal of facilities at which responsibilities have been transferred from the NPL, at State request, and recovery and deposit of response costs.

Directs the Administrator to provide grants to, or enter into contracts with, States to which responsibilities have been transferred.

Revises provisions requiring contracts with States before remedial actions are provided to prohibit the Administrator from providing any remedial action unless the State enters into an agreement providing assurances that it will pay ten percent of the costs of the action and operation and maintenance costs. Removes a 50 percent cost sharing requirement for States with respect to responses at State- or locally-operated facilities. Makes cost sharing requirements inapplicable to Indian tribes.

Authorizes use of the Fund for grants to States under this title.

Title III: Local Community Participation - Defines: (1) "affected community" as a group of two or more individuals who may be affected by a hazardous substance release from a covered facility; and (2) "covered facility" as an NPL-listed or -proposed facility at which the Administrator is undertaking a removal action anticipated to exceed one year or a specified funding limit.

(Sec. 302) Requires the President to make all records relating to releases at a facility, with stated exceptions, available to an affected community throughout all phases of a response action.

(Sec. 303) Sets forth requirements for expanded public participation in the response action process. Authorizes members of a local community to propose remedial action alternatives in the same manner as any other interested parties.

Directs the Administrator to assist in the establishment of a community advisory group for a covered facility to achieve direct and meaningful communication among community members throughout the response action process if: (1) requested by a specified amount of residents of the area in which the facility is located or of any local government; or (2) such group would achieve the purposes of this Act. Requires the Administrator to consult with the group in developing and implementing the response action for a covered facility.

Directs the Administrator to ensure that the membership of such group reflects the composition of the affected community and a diversity of interests.

Authorizes the Administrator to make technical assistance grants to affected communities (including community advisory groups) for use in: (1) interpreting information and preparing the presentation of recipient views with regard to a response action; (2) disseminating information to other members of the local community; or (3) providing funding for training to enable citizens to participate more effectively in the response process.

(Sec. 305) Requires the President to notify State, local, and tribal public health authorities whenever a release (or threat of release) of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant has occurred or is about to occur and such release is under investigation pursuant to CERCLA.

Provides that in a public health emergency, exposed persons shall be eligible for referral to licensed or accredited health care providers. (Currently, such persons are eligible for admission to hospitals and other facilities and services operated by the Public Health Service.)

Includes Indian tribes in the list of individuals to whom the Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is required to provide consultations on health issues related to hazardous substance exposure. Provides for cooperation with Indian tribes with respect to certain ATSDR activities.

Directs the ATSDR Administrator to perform a health assessment for each covered facility (currently, NPL facility) unless the facility presents no significant health risk.

Requires the President and the ATSDR Administrator to complete a health assessment for each NPL facility listed after this Act's enactment prior to the completion of a remedial investigation and feasibility study. Bars the delay of progress of a remedial action pending completion of a health assessment.

Expands the list of parties to whom completed health assessments and recommendations are to be provided to include Indian tribes, local health officials, and community advisory groups.

Requires the ATSDR Administrator to include in the biennial report on ATSDR activities the health impacts on Indian tribes of hazardous substances from covered facilities.

Provides for the distribution of: (1) medical education materials on hazardous substance exposure to local health officials; and (2) educational materials on human health effects of such substances to communities potentially affected by a facility.

Directs the ATSDR Administrator, if considered appropriate, to conduct health education activities to make a community near a covered facility aware of the steps the community may take to mitigate or prevent exposure to hazardous substances and the health effects of such substances.

Requires the ATSDR Administrator to conduct a study relating to the identification, assessment, and management of, and response to, multiple sources of exposure affecting or potentially affecting a community.

Title IV: Selection of Remedial Actions - Revises remedial action selection and implementation procedures to require the President to select a cost-effective action that achieves a stated mandate to protect human health and the environment and complies with applicable Federal and State laws.

Considers a remedial action to protect human health if: (1) considering expected exposures associated with current or future use of the land and water resources, and on the basis of a facility-specific risk evaluation , the action achieves a specified residual health risk of hazardous substance exposure; and (2) the action prevents or eliminates any actual human ingestion of drinking water containing any hazardous substance from the release at levels exceeding maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) under the Safe Drinking Water Act or, if no MCL for the substance has been established, at levels that meet the goals for human health protection.

Considers an action to be protective of the environment if, considering the current or anticipated use of land and water resources, the action protects plants and animals from significant impacts resulting from releases.

Sets forth requirements with respect to action compliance with Federal and State laws.

Permits waiver of compliance with Federal or State standards for reasons including technical impracticability, inconsistent application, and immediacy of other threats.

Describes factors, including reasonableness of cost, to be balanced by the President in selecting a remedial action from among alternatives that satisfy requirements. Directs the President, in selecting an action, to take into account the anticipated future use of land and water resources potentially affected by a release.

Requires decisions regarding remedial actions for contaminated groundwater to take into account: (1) the current or anticipated future use of groundwater and the timing of such use; (2) any attenuation or biodegradation that would occur if no action were taken; and (3) the effect of other response actions. Requires such actions to seek to protect uncontaminated water that is suitable for use as drinking water unless it is technically impracticable. Provides for restoration of contaminated groundwater to a beneficial use unless technically impracticable.

Requires remedial action standards for contaminated groundwater to attain: (1) MCLs under the Safe Drinking Water Act or a more stringent State standard; or (2) standards protective of human health and the environment if Federal or State standards are inapplicable. Makes the requirements for restoration to beneficial use and attainment of the standards described above inapplicable in areas where the hazardous substance is managed in place.

Sets forth requirements for remedial actions for contaminated groundwater having current or anticipated use as drinking water for which attainment of standards is technically impracticable.

Requires the remedy selection process for discrete areas containing hazardous substances that cannot be reliably contained and that present substantial risk to human health and the environment to include a preference for treatment that reduces risk posed by exposure.

Prohibits the selection of an action that allows hazardous substances to remain at a facility above levels that would be protective for unrestricted use unless institutional and engineering controls are incorporated into the action to achieve protection of human health and the environment during and after completion of the action. Defines "institutional controls" as restrictions on permissible uses of land, groundwater, or surface water for NPL facilities.

Directs the President, if he finds that attaining a Federal or State standard is technically impracticable, to select a technically practicable action that protects human health through cost-effective means.

Removes provisions regarding the degree of cleanup required by remedial actions.

(Sec. 403) Describes principles of facility-specific risk evaluations. Requires such evaluations to be used to: (1) determine the need for remedial action; (2) evaluate current and potential facility hazards, exposures, and risks; (3) screen out potential contaminants, areas, or exposure pathways from further study; (4) evaluate the protectiveness of alternative proposed remedial actions; (5) demonstrate that the selected action is capable of protecting human health and the environment considering current and anticipated land and water uses; and (6) establish protective concentration levels if no applicable requirement exists or if a requirement is not sufficiently protective.

Directs the Administrator, in order to streamline the remedial action selection process, to establish presumptive remedial actions that: (1) identify preferred technologies and approaches for common categories of facilities; (2) identify site categorization methodologies for such categories; and (3) are technically practicable, cost-effective, and demonstrated methods to protect human health and the environment.

(Sec. 404) Requires the President to implement specified measures to expedite implementation of response actions and reduce transaction costs. Provides for appropriate phasing and integration of investigative and response activities in order to expedite protection of human health and the environment and completion of actions in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Prescribes conditions under which potentially responsible parties (PRPs) may perform response actions. Authorizes PRPs to perform removal and remedial actions.

Requires the Administrator to establish at least one remedy review board to review and make recommendations on an annual average of one-third of the draft proposed remedial action plans prepared. Authorizes approval of draft plans prepared by PRPs.

(Sec. 405) Prescribes procedures and time frames for notice of completion of construction necessary for a remedial action and de-listing of a facility from the NPL.

(Sec. 406) Establishes transition rules for facilities currently involved in cleanup.

(Sec. 407) Revises the National Contingency Plan to prohibit the Administrator, when listing a site on the NPL, from including property at which no release has occurred but to which a contaminant has migrated in groundwater, unless the groundwater is (or was) in use as a public drinking water supply and the facility owner or operator is liable for response costs.

Title V: Liability - Creates exceptions to liability, under CERCLA and any other Federal or State law, for response costs at NPL-listed facilities for certain: (1) home owners or renters, small businesses, or small nonprofit organizations with respect to certain arrangements for, or transport of, municipal solid waste (MSW) or sewage sludge; (2) de minimis contributors; and (3) small businesses. Caps the total aggregate liability of generators or transporters of MSW or sewage sludge who are not otherwise exempted at ten percent of response costs. Establishes limitations to liability for codisposal landfills (certain MSW or sewage sludge landfills that may have received hazardous waste and that contain predominately MSW or sewage sludge transported from outside the facility).

Requires the President, as a condition of settlements pertaining to codisposal landfills, to require a municipality to waive claims against other PRPs for response costs addressed in the settlement.

(Sec. 502) Permits contribution from the Fund of response costs incurred after this Act's enactment date by persons who are subject to abatement orders or have entered into settlement decrees but are not liable for such costs by reason of an exception.

(Sec. 503) Adds to the list of parties eligible for expedited final settlements certain persons, small businesses, or municipalities who demonstrate an inability or limited ability to pay response costs. Revises conditions of eligibility for such settlements for de minimis parties.

Establishes a moratorium on litigation under CERCLA or any other Federal or State law for recovery or contribution of response costs from any person eligible for an expedited settlement within a specified time frame.

(Sec. 504) Adds provisions to effect the allocation of liability for response costs at multiparty facilities. Differentiates between mandatory and requested allocations. Requires mandatory allocation at NPL facilities where response costs exceeding $1 million will be incurred after this Act's enactment and codisposal landfills with respect to which costs are incurred after enactment. Gives priority to allocations at codisposal landfills. Excludes facilities for which a settlement decree has already determined liability from the allocation process.

Applies allocations to: (1) response costs incurred after this Act's enactment with respect to a mandatory allocation facility; (2) unrecovered response costs of the United States incurred before this Act's enactment with respect to a mandatory allocation facility; and (3) response costs incurred at a facility that is the subject of a requested allocation.

Authorizes allocations for costs incurred before this Act's enactment with the agreement of the allocation parties and the United States. Makes such allocations ineligible for reimbursement of an orphan share.

Prescribes allocation procedures, including effect on litigation and enforcement, time frames, consideration of equitable factors, orphan shares, and information gathering.

Permits PRPs to nominate additional PRPs.

Directs the United States to reimburse PRPs that agree to perform the response action and to acceptable settlement terms in pre-allocation negotiations for 100 percent of the orphan share. Requires the Administrator to adopt any settlement that: (1) allocates at least 90 percent of the recoverable costs at a facility; and (2) contains specified conditions required for settlements based on allocations.

Requires the Administrator to initiate the allocation process at the request of any PRP that has not resolved its liability to the United States after the conclusion of settlement negotiations.

Subjects allocation decisions to judicial review, but upholds such decisions unless the objecting party demonstrates that a decision was arbitrary and capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law.

Requires the Administrator and the allocation parties to select a neutral, third-party allocator. Subjects Federal PRPs to the allocation process in the same manner as such process is applied to other PRPs.

Requires the allocator to provide to the Administrator, the Attorney General, and each allocation party a final allocation report that specifies the estimated contribution share of each party and any orphan share. Limits the admissibility in court of such report except for purposes of supporting a settlement between the United States and an allocation party.

Authorizes the Administrator to require PRPs that did not enter into a settlement during pre-allocation negotiations to pay the costs of the allocation process.

Sets forth confidentiality requirements with respect to information submitted to the allocator.

Describes: (1) conditions under which the Administrator and the Attorney General may reject the allocator's report; and (2) requirements for settlements based on allocations.

Authorizes the Administrator to commence actions against parties that fail to resolve liability following allocation. Makes nonsettling parties subject to joint and several liability for unrecovered response costs, including costs of federally funded orphan and nonsettling party shares.

(Sec. 505) Provides that a general purpose unit of local government that, as a result of tax forfeiture, abandonment, bankruptcy, or foreclosure, has acquired a facility at which there has been a release and that is or may be contaminated shall not be considered to be an owner or operator for purposes of CERCLA.

(Sec. 506) Excludes response action contractors from the definition of "owner or operator." Revises the national uniform negligence standards. Revises procedures governing EPA decisions to indemnify response action contractors. Limits actions against response action contractors.

(Sec. 507) Requires nonconfidential CERCLA records and reports to be released within 14 days after the information is obtained. (Current law states no time frame for public disclosure.) Requires abatement orders and settlement agreement notices to contain information concerning the evidence of the presence of each element of liability for response costs.

(Sec. 508) Absolves persons who have reached a settlement with the United States or a State from liability for claims for cost recovery (in addition to contribution, as under current law).

(Sec. 509) Adds provisions to include tax-exempt religious, charitable, scientific, and educational organizations as owner-operators and limits the liability of such organizations with respect to facilities received as charitable gifts.

(Sec. 510) Revises liability for acts of third parties in contractual arrangements for rail transportation.

(Sec. 511) Adds provisions exempting railroad owners or operators of spur tracks from liability.

(Sec. 512) Adds provisions exempting persons that arrange for the recycling of glass, paper, plastic, rubber (other than whole tires), metal, and batteries from liability.

Title VI: Federal Facilities - Revises provisions governing the transfer of CERCLA authorities vested in the Administrator to allow States to apply to exercise such authorities at any NPL-listed Federal facility located in the State. Prescribes procedures governing such transfers.

Provides that the Administrator retains authority to recover response costs from PRPs for any Federal listed facility for which responsibility is transferred. Sets forth dispute resolution and enforcement procedures for facilities for which the State does not concur in the proposed Federal remedial action.

(Sec. 602) Allows the President to designate NPL-listed or -proposed Federal facilities to facilitate the development of innovative technologies for remedial action.

(Sec. 603) Revises provisions regarding the application of CERCLA to Federal facilities to apply all other Federal, State, interstate, and local laws relating to response or restoration actions or hazardous waste management in the same manner as such laws are applied to nongovernmental entities.

Waives sovereign immunity of the United States with respect to such laws. Makes Federal employees subject to criminal sanctions under State or Federal response or hazardous substance management laws.

Authorizes the Administrator to issue an abatement order to a Federal agency and requires initiation of an administrative enforcement action in the same manner as action would be initiated against any other person.

Requires all funds collected by a State from the Federal Government from penalties imposed under this section to be used only for projects to improve or protect the environment or to defray costs of environmental protection or enforcement unless a State law requires such funds to be used differently.

Title VII: Natural Resource Damages - Makes persons responsible for natural resource injury or loss liable for: (1) the costs of resource restoration or replacement; (2) replacement of lost services provided by the resource; and (3) reasonable costs of assessing damages.

Prohibits double recovery for natural resource damages under CERCLA and other laws. Bars recovery for the value of lost services provided by a resource before December 11, 1980. Requires sums recovered for damages by Indian natural resource trustees to be used only to restore, replace, or acquire equivalent resources.

Revises procedures for the issuance, and the required contents, of regulations regarding damage assessments.

(Sec. 702) Requires the President, in evaluating and selecting remedial actions, to consider potential natural resources injuries resulting from the actions.

(Sec. 703) Allows a court, in resolving contribution claims, to allocate natural resource damages (in addition to response costs, as under current law) among liable parties.

(Sec. 704) Requires natural resource trustees seeking damages to initiate mediation with PRPs by means of the mediation procedure or another alternative dispute resolution method recognized by the district court.

(Sec. 705) Directs the Coeur d'Alene Basin Commission to submit to the Governor of the State of Idaho a plan to restore, manage, and enhance the Coeur d'Alene basin consistent with CERCLA objectives and in a cost-effective manner.

Requires the Governor to finalize the plan and seek to negotiate enforceable agreements with persons against whom actions for response costs, related corrective actions, or penalties or damages pertaining to releases from mining activities in the Basin are pending. Authorizes stays of proceedings with respect to such persons to allow restoration to proceed under an agreement. Details agreement terms, requiring such persons to contribute a fair share of costs, provide financial assurances, and pay stipulated penalties to guarantee performance. Provides that persons who enter into agreements shall not be subject to Basin actions, subject to certain conditions.

Absolves the Governor, State, and the Commission, unless otherwise agreed to in an agreement, of liability for: (1) activities conducted in accordance with the plan; or (2) response costs or response, cleanup, or corrective actions undertaken or incurred in connection with the plan.

Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 706) Makes the amendments made by this title inapplicable to actions to recover natural resource damages in which trial began before July 1, 1997, or in which a judgment has become final before such date.

Title VIII: Miscellaneous - Requires the National Hazardous Substance Response Plan (part of the National Contingency Plan) to include procedures for conducting response actions which use a results-oriented approach and which meet certain other timeliness and cost-effectiveness criteria.

(Sec. 802) Amends the criteria for continuance of Fund obligations for response actions to: (1) increase the cut-off amount from $2 million to $5 million; and (2) increase the cut-off time period from 12 months to three years.

(Sec. 803) Applies a certain exemption from liability for non-owner-operator service station dealers for releases resulting from recycled oil to automobile dealers as well.

(Sec. 804) Excludes State or local governments which acquire ownership of facilities through seizure or in connection with law enforcement activities from the definition of "owner or operator."

(Sec. 805) Directs the Administrator to enter into a contract with the Health Effects Institute to establish and administer an independent scientific review panel to review existing science on the relationship between lead in residential soil and blood lead levels. Provides for a report to the Congress.

Requires the Administrator to promulgate a regulation governing the performance of risk assessments and selecting remedies at facilities where lead in soil is a contaminant of concern.

(Sec. 806) Prohibits recovery for response costs or damages in connection with the release of a hazardous substance resulting from the application, before this Act's enactment, of a pesticide or similar product in compliance with a Federal or State law requiring the treatment of livestock to prevent or control disease.

Title IX: Funding - Authorizes appropriations from the Fund of $7.5 billion for FY 1999 through 2003.

(Sec. 902) Allows payment of orphan shares as a use of the Fund.

(Sec. 903) Authorizes funds for ATSDR activities for FY 1999 through 2003.

(Sec. 904) Sets the following annual limitations on amounts available for FY 1999 through 2003: (1) $30 million for alternative or innovative technologies research, development, and demonstration programs; (2) $37 million, increasing $2 million per year through FY 2001, and $43 million for each of FY 2002 and 2003, for hazardous substance research, demonstration, and training; and (3) $5 million for university research centers.

(Sec. 905) Authorizes appropriations to the Fund through FY 2003.

(Sec. 906) Sets limits on funding of technical assistance grants for affected communities with respect to covered facilities.

Specifies that collected response cost recoveries will be credited to the Fund appropriations account as offsetting collections.

(Sec. 907) Allows use of the Fund to reimburse PRPs following the results of an audit showing costs are unallowable or should be adjusted.