(Extensions of Remarks - August 05, 1999)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1767-E1768]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                          HON. EDOLPHUS TOWNS

                              of new york

                    in the house of representatives

                        Thursday, August 5, 1999

  Mr. TOWNS. Mr. Speaker, for several years, administration officials 
had said they needed and wanted targeted legislation to give them 
necessary flexibility to achieve clean up goals of the Resources 
Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
  EPA has tried many times to address those needs as well through 
regulation. While those efforts have attempted to speed clean up and 
make requirements more rational, each attempt has met with legal 
challenges and protracted negotiations and lawsuits, severely limiting 
the Agency's ability to effectively address this concern. Moreover, 
with each attempt at moving in the direction of common-sense, the 
Agency is forced to pay fealty to broken statutory provisions that have 
inhibited Brownfields cleanups for 15 years.
  Importantly, a 1997 General Accounting Office study confirmed this 
assessment: ``EPA has concluded . . . the agency could not easily 
achieve comprehensive reform through the regulatory process. It 
believes that such reform can best be achieved by revising the 
underlying law to exempt governing remediation

[[Page E1768]]

waste.'' GAO examined EPA's concerns and those of many other 
stakeholders and agreed with EPA's assessment.
  The portion of the RCRA law that we are concerned with is that which 
directs cleanup of properties contaminated with hazardous waste. That 
portion affects far more than the more than 5000 ``RCRA permitted 
sites'' plus most of the Superfund sites. Indeed, the current RCRA 
cleanup program also affects many state cleanups, including those at 
``brownfields sites,'' brownfields are abandoned, idled or under-used 
industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment 
is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. EPA 
estimates there may be as many as 450,000 of these sites. As 
brownfields redevelopment activities have increased, it has 
increasingly come to our attention that the hazardous waste management 
and permitting requirements under RCRA either preclude the development 
of some sites altogether or significantly increase the time and cost of 
redevelopment. In fact, EPA has stated that, ``. . . RCRA requirements, 
written with end of pipe wastes in mind, may be unnecessarily 
burdensome when applied to brownfields cleanups.''
  Let's review some of the legislative record on this issue. First, the 
cleanup contractors who clearly want to see more remediation activity 
have stated ``the environmental cleanup industry faces significant 
impediments to implementing innovative, cost-effective solutions due to 
the strict permitting, treatment and disposal requirements imposed by 
RCRA on remediation wastes.''
  The State agencies which run voluntary cleanup and brownfields 
programs have stated: ``As State Waste Managers who administer the RCRA 
programs, we have long recognized the need for significant reforms to 
the procedures by which sites are cleaned up under RCRA. Contaminated 
media is currently regulated by RCRA to the same degree as the ``as/
generated/process wastes''. This is inappropriate and often leads to 
many environmentally undesirable impacts such as a preference for 
leaving wastes in place rather than treating or removing the wastes 
and/or unnecessary delays due to permitting requirements.''
  EPA has written in 1997: ``While the agency has not endorsed any 
specific regulatory proposal, we continued to believe reform to 
application of RCRA requirements to remediation waste, especially RCRA 
land disposal restrictions, minimum technology, and permitting 
requirements, if accomplished appropriately could significantly 
accelerate cleanup actions at Superfund, Brownfield, and RCRA 
Corrective Action sites without sacrificing protection of human health 
and the environment.
  Just late last year, EPA had attempted one more time to provide some 
of the needed regulatory flexibility with the issuance of the Hazardous 
Waste Identification Rule (HWIR). We applaud the agency for those 
efforts. Unfortunately, that rule was litigated and is under settlement 
discussion. Remediation waste and newly generated wastes are completely 
different issues and should be treated differently.
  Even if EPA's efforts at a settlement are successful and maintain the 
flexibility needed to encourage cleanup, it will take the agency over 
two years to implement the changes and even then the new rule would be 
subject to lawsuit--again introducing uncertainty. Furthermore, the 
HWIR did not address all of the issues that EPA itself admitted need to 
be addressed to remove barriers to cleanup.
  I rise today to say that we have heard the concerns of those who want 
to cleanup those waste sites, but have been deterred by the barriers in 
the law. I am pleased to announce that Congressman Towns and I have 
introduced the Brownfields Remediation Waste Act of 1999. This reflects 
a bipartisan desire to help fix some of the problems posed by RCRA to 
increase the number of Brownfields cleanups.
  Fundamentally, this bill allows EPA to treat remediation waste 
differently from generated process waste. This bill also clarifies and 
provides the authority for the so-called ``corrective action management 
units,'' The EPA rules now in place are recognized as satisfying the 
requirements of this clarified authority, and any future regulatory 
changes will benefit from a EPA study of real world problems 
encountered while implementing these rules.
  The bill also corrects some limitations by providing that staging 
piles and temporary units may be used at off-site locations, owned or 
operated by the persons engaged in remediation at the first location. 
This will be helpful in consolidating and managing wastes away from the 
urban sites where they are currently found.
  A large part of the success of remediation waste management reform, 
including the EPA rules and this legislation, depends on the States 
assuming this authority and having the flexibility to tailor these 
authorities in connection with their own remediation programs; whether 
operated under RCRA or otherwise. This bill harnesses the innovation of 
these programs while requiring submission and approval of provisions 
implementing remediation waste requirements by EPA. EPA's current 
authorization, as it relates to remedy selection decisions in state 
programs themselves, would remain the same.
  We look forward to bipartisan suggestions to improve this legislation 
and to doing our part to help those pursuing Brownfields and other 
remediation efforts.