Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Reported to House amended, Part I (09/30/1999)

Recycle America's Land Act of 1999 - Title I: Brownfields Revitalization - Amends the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to direct the President to establish a program to provide grants to eligible States or political subdivisions, including Indian tribes, for: (1) inventory and assessment of brownfield facilities; and (2) capitalization of revolving loan funds for remedial actions at such facilities. Defines a "brownfield facility" as real property with respect to which expansion or redevelopment is complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance.

Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 103) Authorizes the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide technical and other assistance to States to establish and expand State voluntary cleanup programs. Authorizes appropriations and provides for a minimum amount of assistance for such programs. Makes a State that receives such assistance ineligible for brownfield site inventory and assessment assistance.

(Sec. 104) Bars the President or any person (other than a State), with respect to a facility that is not listed or proposed for listing on the National Priorities List (NPL) at which there is a release or threatened release of a hazardous substance, from taking an administrative or judicial enforcement action or bringing a judicial enforcement or civil action to recover response costs against any person who is conducting or has completed a response action in compliance with State law. Makes exceptions to this prohibition if the State requests the President to take action or in certain cases of emergency or migration of contamination across State lines. Requires the President to report to Congress on the factual and legal basis for any such action.

(Sec. 105) Requires the President to defer listing a facility on the NPL if: (1) long-term remedial action will be conducted under other Federal authorities; (2) remedial action that will provide long-term protection of human health and the environment is underway at that facility under a State response program; or (3) at a State's request, the State is attempting to obtain an agreement from a person to perform a remedial action under a State response program. Authorizes the President to place a facility described in (3) above on the NPL if, after one year, the President finds that the State is not making reasonable progress toward obtaining an agreement.

Title II: Community Participation and Human Health - Subtitle A: Community Participation - Requires the President to take specified actions to provide for meaningful public participation in every significant phase of a response action at a facility listed or proposed for listing on the NPL (covered facilities).

Permits affected Indian tribes and communities, local government officials, and State and local health officials to propose remedial alternatives to the President.

(Sec. 202) Requires the President to make records relating to response actions at covered facilities available to the public throughout all phases of an action.

(Sec. 203) Revises provisions regarding grants for technical assistance to authorize the Administrator to make such grants to affected communities with respect to: (1) covered facilities; (2) facilities at which the Administrator is undertaking a response action anticipated to exceed one year; or (3) facilities at which a specified funding limit is anticipated to be reached.

(Sec. 205) Sets forth specific notice and comment requirements to provide for public participation in removal actions.

(Sec. 206) Directs the Administrator to submit to Congress a community study that includes an analysis of: (1) the time between the discovery and listing of a facility; (2) the timing and nature of response actions; (3) the degree to which public views are reflected in response actions; (3) future land use determinations and use of institutional controls; (4) the population, race, ethnicity, and income characteristics of communities affected by facilities listed or proposed for listing on the NPL; and (5) the risk presented by each such facility. Requires periodic updates of such study. Directs the Administrator to institute necessary improvements or modifications to address any deficiencies identified by the study.

Subtitle B: Human Health - Requires the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Administrator to develop and distribute educational materials on human health effects of hazardous substances to the public.

Authorizes the ATSDR Administrator to provide grant or contract assistance to individuals who may be affected by releases or threatened releases when: (1) a public health assessment is conducted at an NPL facility; or (2) a facility is being evaluated for inclusion on the NPL.

Authorizes and directs the ATSDR Administrator, pursuant to such grants or contracts, to provide diagnostic services, health data registries, and preventative public health education to communities affected by such releases.

(Sec. 223) Requires the President, in setting priorities for remedial action under the national hazardous substance response plan (part of the national contingency plan for the removal of oil and hazardous substances), to place highest priority on facilities with releases resulting in actual ongoing human exposures at levels of public health concern or demonstrated adverse effects.

(Sec. 224) Requires the Administrator to evaluate areas such as Indian reservations or poor rural or urban communities that warrant special attention and identify up to five facilities in each EPA region that are likely to warrant inclusion on the NPL. Accords such facilities a priority in evaluation for NPL listing and scoring.

Title III: Liability Reform - Prohibits Federal agencies with authority to use the imminent hazard, enforcement, and emergency response authorities under provisions governing abatement actions from using such authorities with respect to releases for which they are potentially responsible parties (PRPs).

(Sec. 302) Absolves of liability for response costs and damages certain owners or operators, including persons who inherited the property concerned and government entities that acquired property involuntarily, or through eminent domain or the granting of a license or permit to conduct business, if such persons: (1) acquired the affected facility after the disposal or placement of the hazardous substance for which liability is alleged; (2) did not cause or contribute to the hazardous substance release; and (3) exercised appropriate care with respect to such substance. Limits liability for owners or operators who meet such conditions and received the property as a charitable donation. Requires persons who acquired ownership of affected property after December 1, 1980, to meet the requirements described above and establish that they made all appropriate inquiry into previous ownership and uses of the property in order to be exempt from liability. Establishes an additional condition for persons who acquired property before March 25, 1999, requiring that such persons establish that they did not know that a hazardous substance was disposed of on, in, or at the affected property.

Absolves of liability owners or operators of publicly- or federally-owned treatment works or a treatment works that would be considered as such and is principally treating municipal waste water or domestic sewage if: (1) the works, at the time of the release concerned, was in compliance with pretreatment requirements under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act applicable to the hazardous substances that are the subject of the response action; and (2) the release or threatened release was not caused by a failure to properly operate and maintain the treatment works or by negligence or intentional misconduct.

Exempts from liability: (1) owners or operators of rights-of-way over which hazardous substances are transported if such persons did not cause or contribute to the release concerned; (2) railroad owners or operators of spur tracks whose tracks meet specified conditions and who did not cause or contribute to the release concerned; and (3) construction contractors whose liability is based solely on construction contract activities and who did not know of the presence of hazardous substances and exercised appropriate care with respect to such substances.

Grants the United States a lien for unrecovered response costs on a facility for which the owner is not liable by reason of meeting the conditions described above. Prescribes conditions for such liens. Bars liens with respect to property: (1) for which the property owner preceding the current owner is not liable or has resolved liability; or (2) where an environmental assessment gave the owner or operator no reason to know of the release of hazardous substances.

Makes applicable to tribal governments an exemption from liability for States or local governments for costs or damages resulting from actions taken in response to an emergency created by a release generated by a facility owned by another person. Expands such exemption to include actions to improve water quality protection at abandoned mine sites and adjacent lands owned by others if such actions are taken in accordance with a Federal or State-approved response action.

Excludes certain contiguous property owners from the definition of "owner or operator" for purposes of creating an exemption to liability.

(Sec. 305) Exempts certain small business concerns from liability under provisions governing arrangement, acceptance, or transport of hazardous substances for response costs or damages at an NPL facility with respect to actions taken before March 25, 1999. Provides an additional exemption from liability under such provisions for persons arranging or transporting municipal solid waste (MSW) or municipal sewage sludge prior to this Act's enactment for disposal at an NPL landfill facility, with exceptions. Limits liability for persons engaging in such activities after this Act's enactment date to ten percent of response costs at such a landfill facility. Makes such limitation applicable, with respect to actions taken 36 months after this Act's enactment, only to municipalities that participate in qualified household hazardous waste collection programs. Provides for expedited final settlements, in lieu of the aggregate ten percent liability limitation, based on the average unit cost of remediating MSW and municipal sewage sludge in such landfills.

Exempts certain owners, operators, or lessees of residential property, small businesses, and tax-exempt organizations from liability for response costs or damages under arrangement, acceptance, or transport provisions with respect to the arrangement or transport of MSW for disposal at an NPL landfill facility.

Limits liability for response costs for facilities that received MSW, were proposed for NPL listing before March 25, 1999, are owned by municipalities, and are not subject to certain criteria for solid waste landfills under the Solid Waste Disposal Act.

Provides a de micromis exemption to liability under arrangement, acceptance, or transport provisions in cases where less than 110 gallons or 200 pounds of materials containing hazardous substances are attributable to any one person at an NPL facility before this Act's enactment.

Requires the Hazardous Substance Superfund (Superfund) to assume the liability for certain exempt parties or those subject to limited liability for releases from NPL facilities.

Directs the Administrator to establish a small business Superfund assistance section within the EPA small business ombudsman office to provide assistance and information regarding CERCLA and the allocation and settlement processes.

(Sec. 306) Limits the right to seek contribution from other parties where: (1) the person asserting the right has waived such right in a settlement; (2) the person from whom the contribution is sought is not liable under CERCLA; or (3) the person from whom the contribution is sought has entered into a final settlement with the United States. Makes any person who commences a contribution action liable to the person against whom the action is brought for all reasonable costs of defending against the claim if the action: (1) is barred for the reasons stated above; (2) is brought against a person who is protected from suits by reason of settlement with the United States; or (3) is brought during a specified moratorium period.

(Sec. 307) Expands the exemption from liability for response action contractors to include exemption from liability under State or local law unless a State has enacted a law determining liability of such contractors.

Extends certain indemnification agreements made by the President with respect to negligence of response action contractors to any claims for negligence arising under State or local law.

Bars actions against contractors more than six years after the completion of work. Makes such prohibition inapplicable in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct or in States or political subdivisions where the State has enacted a statute determining liability for such contractors.

(Sec. 308) Requires (current law authorizes) the President to offer PRPs (currently, any person) who enter into settlement agreements that are in the public interest a final covenant not to sue concerning liability to the United States for response actions or costs, provided that: (1) the settling party agrees to perform a final remedial action for the release that is the subject of the settlement; (2) the agreement has been reached prior to the commencement of litigation against the settling party; (3) the settling party waives all contribution rights against other PRPs at the facility; (4) the settling party, other than a small business, pays a premium that compensates for the risks of remedy failure, future liability, and unanticipated increases in the cost of any uncompleted action (unless the party is performing the action); (5) the remedial action does not rely on institutional controls to ensure continued health and environmental protection; and (6) the settlement is otherwise acceptable to the United States.

Authorizes the President, for settlements for which covenants are unavailable, to provide any person with a covenant not to sue concerning any liability to the United States if the covenant not to sue is in the public interest.

Makes PRPs who are natural persons, small businesses, or municipalities with a demonstrated limited ability to pay response costs eligible for expedited settlements. Absolves a small business of liability if the President does not make a settlement offer within the later of 180 days of determining that such party is eligible for an expedited settlement or of this Act's enactment date.

(Sec. 309) Absolves persons (other than owners or operators) who arranged for the recycling of recyclable material or who transported such material from general liability under CERCLA.

Deems transactions involving recyclable materials that consist of scrap paper, plastic, glass, textiles, or rubber to be arranging for recycling if the person who arranged the transaction demonstrates that the following criteria were met: (1) the recyclable material met a commercial specification grade and a market existed for the material; (2) a substantial portion of the material was made available for use as a feedstock for the manufacture of a new saleable product; (3) the material (or product made from the material) could have been a replacement for a virgin raw material; and (4) with respect to transactions occurring 90 days after this Act's enactment, the person exercised reasonable care to determine that the facility where the material would be managed by another was in compliance with Federal, State, or local environmental laws or regulations.

Deems transactions involving recyclable materials that consist of scrap metal to be arranging for recycling if the person who arranged the transaction demonstrates that: (1) the criteria for scrap materials were met; (2) he or she complied with applicable standards regarding activities associated with the recycling of scrap metals; and (3) the scrap metal was not melted prior to the transaction.

Deems transactions involving recyclable materials that consist of spent lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, or other batteries to be arranging for recycling if the person involved demonstrates that: (1) the criteria for scrap materials were met; and (2) he or she complied with applicable Federal environmental standards regarding such batteries.

Deems transactions involving recyclable materials that consist of used oil to be arranging for recycling if the person involved did not mix such materials with a hazardous substance following the removal of the oil from service and demonstrates that: (1) the recyclable material was sent to a facility that recycled used oil by using it as a feedstock for the manufacture of a new saleable product; (2) the material (or product made from the material) could have been a replacement for a virgin raw material; (3) with respect to transactions occurring 90 days after this Act's enactment, the person exercised reasonable care to determine that the facility where the material would be managed by another was in compliance with Federal, State, or local environmental laws or regulations; and (4) he or she was in compliance with standards for the management of used oil under the Solid Waste Disposal Act.

Makes the exemptions from liability inapplicable if the person: (1) had an objectively reasonable basis to believe at the time of the recycling transaction that the recyclable material would not be recycled or would be burned as fuel or for energy recovery or incineration (in the case of materials other than used oil) or that the consuming facility was not in compliance with Federal, State, or local environmental laws or regulations; (2) had reason to believe that hazardous substances had been added to the material for purposes other than processing for recycling; or (3) failed to exercise reasonable care with respect to the management of the material.

(Sec. 310) Sets forth provisions regarding an allocation process to determine equitable allocations of the costs of removal or remedial actions at eligible NPL facilities. Makes an action eligible for allocation if the action is at an NPL facility and: (1) the performance of such action is not the subject of a consent decree or an administrative order as of March 25, 1999; (2) the President's estimate of the cost of such action that has not been recovered by such date exceeds $2 million; and (3) there are response costs attributable to the Superfund share. Makes an action ineligible for allocation if: (1) the facility is located on a contiguous area of real property under common ownership or control; and (2) all of the potentially liable parties are current or former owners or operators of such facility unless the current owner is insolvent or defunct.

Sets forth requirements for the President in initiating the allocation process. Authorizes the President to initiate an allocation for any removal or remedial action at an NPL facility. Provides for selection of a neutral allocator selected by agreement of the parties..

Requires the President to provide an estimate of the aggregate Superfund share prior to selection of an allocator and to offer to contribute to a settlement of liability on the basis of such estimate.

Entitles the Administrator or the Attorney General, as representatives of Superfund, and any State that may be responsible for costs, to participate in allocation proceedings.

Places a moratorium on litigation seeking recovery of response costs or contributions in connection with actions for which the President has initiated allocations until 150 days after issuance of the allocator's report or of a report under this section. Stays pending actions or claims, including those under State law, until such prescribed period unless the court determines that a stay will result in manifest injustice.

Sets forth procedures for the allocation of response costs to Superfund by the allocator. Divides unattributable shares pro rata among the PRPs and Superfund.

Authorizes a group of PRPs to submit a private allocation to the allocator. Requires the allocator to adopt such allocation as the allocation report if: (1) the allocation is a binding allocation of at least 80 percent of the past, present, and future costs of the action; (2) the allocation does not allocate a share to a person who is not a signatory to the allocation; and (3) the allocation signatories waive their rights to seek recovery of removal or remedial costs or contribution with respect to the action from any other party at the facility.

Sets forth requirements for accepting settlements based on allocations. Makes such requirements inapplicable if the Administrator and the Attorney General reject the allocation report.

Sets forth conditions under which parties who satisfactorily perform work under an administrative abatement action order with respect to a removal or remedial action eligible for allocation shall be entitled to reimbursement for the costs of work performed in excess of the share allocated.

Title IV: Remedy Selection - Revises provisions regarding general rules for remedy selection. Directs the President, in assessing alternative remedial actions, to take into account the effectiveness of an action in making contaminated property available for beneficial use.

Requires the President to review the effectiveness of and compliance with any institutional controls related to an action during a site review required under current law.

Requires exposure assessments to be consistent with the current and reasonably anticipated uses of land, water, and other resources identified by the President.

Directs the President, in selecting appropriate methods of remediation for a given facility, to identify current and reasonably anticipated uses of land, water, and other resources at and around the facility and the timing of such uses. Sets forth requirements for determining the reasonably anticipated uses of land, water, and groundwater. Permits assumptions restricting future uses to be used in evaluating remedial alternatives only to the extent that institutional controls meeting specified criteria under this Act are identified.

Sets forth requirements, including those for institutional controls, with respect to remedial actions that allow hazardous substances to remain on-site at a facility above concentration levels that would be protective for unrestricted use. Authorizes the President to use institutional controls as a supplement to, but not as a substitute for, other response measures, except in extraordinary circumstances.

Directs the President to maintain a registry of restrictions on the use of land, water, or other resources through institutional controls that are included in final records of decisions as a component of the remedy at facilities that are, or have been on the NPL.

Requires the Administrator to report annually to specified congressional committees on each record of decision signed during the previous fiscal year, the type of institutional controls and media affected, and the governmental unit designated to monitor, enforce, and ensure compliance with institutional controls.

(Sec. 402) Authorizes the President, in order to respond to a release or threatened release of a hazardous substance, to acquire a hazardous substance easement which limits or controls the use of land or other natural resources. Permits easements to be used wherever institutional controls have been selected as a component of a remedial action and the national contingency plan. Makes easements enforceable in perpetuity (unless terminated pursuant to this Act) against owners of affected property and persons who acquire interest in, or rights to use, the property. Sets forth provisions regarding the President's authority to assign easements to other parties.

(Sec. 403) Requires risk assessments and characterizations conducted under CERCLA to: (1) provide objective assessments, estimates, and characterizations which neither minimize nor exaggerate the nature and magnitude of health and environmental risks; (2) distinguish scientific findings from other considerations; (3) be based on relevant and reliable scientific and technical information; and (4) be based on an analysis of the weight of scientific evidence that supports conclusions about a problem's potential health and environmental risk.

Title V: General Provisions - Expands CERCLA provisions regarding treatment of Indian tribes to afford Indian tribes the same treatment as States with respect to provisions regarding public participation, remedy selection, and voluntary cleanup programs. Deems references to State facilities under CERCLA to mean facilities on Federal Indian reservations as well.

Requires the President to conduct a study of, and report to Congress on, the health impacts on Indian tribes of pollutants, contaminants, and hazardous substances released from facilities listed on or proposed for listing on the NPL.

(Sec. 503) Amends the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 to require certain grants for the training and education of workers engaged in hazardous waste removal or containment or emergency response activities to be made from Superfund. Allocates at least 20 percent of funds for such purposes to the training of minority and other community-based workers who are involved in such activities.

(Sec. 504) Revises provisions requiring contracts with States before remedial actions are provided to prohibit the President 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 ten percent of the costs of operation and maintenance.

(Sec. 505) Extends certain provisions authorizing reimbursements by the President to local governments affected by releases or threatened releases to affected States as well.

(Sec. 506) Sets forth provisions regarding enforcement and dispute resolution regarding remedy selection at Federal facilities for which authorities have been delegated to a State.

(Sec. 507) Requires the Congressional Budget Office to conduct and submit to Congress a study of the potential costs to the Federal Government over the next 20 years from Federal liability for natural resource damages under CERCLA.

(Sec. 508) Provides that CERCLA liability provisions shall not be construed to preempt any claims under State law for contribution to or recovery of costs of responding to releases of hazardous substances.

(Sec. 509) Establishes Buy American requirements for entities receiving financial assistance under this Act or a law amended by this Act.

(Sec. 510) Requires the Administrator to develop and submit to Congress a plan to encourage U.S. companies to develop new technologies and methods to clean up NPL and other hazardous waste sites.

Title VI: Expenditures From the Hazardous Substance Superfund - Revises the list of activities for which expenditures from Superfund are authorized. Permits the President to use Superfund monies for administrative costs directly related to the costs of authorized activities.

Bars the use of Superfund for response actions that are not removal actions with respect to non-NPL facilities.

Repeals provisions regarding the assumption of certain liability by the Post-closure Liability Fund.

(Sec. 602) Authorizes appropriations to Superfund for FY 2000 through 2007.

(Sec. 603) Authorizes appropriations for an independent analysis of the projected ten-year costs to EPA of implementing the programs authorized by CERCLA. Requires such cost analysis to be conducted by a neutral, nongovernmental organization with expertise in CERCLA.

Title VII: Revenues - Expresses the sense of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that: (1) the environmental taxes and taxes on chemicals and petroleum that provide revenues to Superfund be reinstated for 2000 through 2007; (2) the rate of tax and combination of taxes be commensurate with revenue needs; and (3) the taxes that provide revenues to Superfund may be reauthorized at a lower rate and may decline over time, subject to meeting the revenue needs.