Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
THE BROWNFIELDS REMEDIATION WASTE ACT OF 1999
(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 [www.gpo.gov] THE BROWNFIELDS REMEDIATION WASTE ACT OF 1999 ______ 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. ____________________