Members Seek Update to Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act


On January 9, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2279, the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act. The package, composed of three separate bills, seeks to modernize existing federal law and increase the role of the states in environmental cleanups under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA).

The original bill, introduced by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), would remove a requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review regulations under the Solid Waste Disposal Act every three years and would instead let the EPA review these rules as appropriate. The bill would also prohibit the EPA from imposing overlapping regulations on states that have rules on solid waste disposal.

The House Rules Committee attached two other measures to the bill. One is the Federal Facility Accountability Act, introduced by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), which would require all federally owned facilities to comply with state requirements on hazardous substances. Another is the Federal and State Partnership for Environmental Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), that would require the President to consult with states before enforcing federal environmental law.

All three bills were approved separately by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They were also considered separately at the subcommittee level last June, after which full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said the measures were a good step toward cooperating with states on environmental measures.

Included in the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act:

• H.R. 2226, which requires the EPA to consult with states before beginning remediation activities at a Superfund site and provide credit for state Superfund cleanup costs.

• H.R. 2318, which would waive the U.S. government's immunity from state laws as they apply to federal Superfund sites, potentially subjecting federal agencies to civil penalties and state requirements for private Superfund sites.

• H.R. 2279, which provides flexibility for EPA to determine as appropriate whether to review, and if necessary revise, regulations promulgated under the Solid Waste Disposal Act, and will preserve existing state financial assurance laws from preemption.

The legislation passed by a vote of 225 to 188, largely along party lines, with four Republicans voting against it, and five Democrats voting for it. The bill is not expected to pass in the Senate, and the White House has already issued a veto threat.

-J.C. Boggs

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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