Subcommittee Examines Legislation to Modernize Federal Environmental Law and Increase State Authority
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), today held a hearing examining three legislative proposals: the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act, the Federal and State Partnership for Environmental Protection Act, and the Federal Facility Accountability Act. These three bills seek to modernize existing federal law and increase state authority under CERCLA. The legislative proposals incorporate ideas learned from past subcommittee hearings, including the February 15, 2013, hearing on “The Role of the States in Protecting the Environment.”
“Our goal is to modernize some of these environmental laws that we oversee and make sure the states are playing a significant role in implementing them. To do that, we began this Congress with a hearing on the role of the states in protecting the environment,” said Subcommittee Chairman Shimkus. “State environmental protection officials shared their experience and expertise with us and helped us better understand the complex partnership between the states and the federal government as states implement federal laws, such as the Solid Waste Disposal Act (RCRA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), and the interaction with state environmental protection laws. Today we consider three bills that are a logical outgrowth of that discussion.”
“We are pleased that the committee has taken an interest in addressing CERCLA and
RCRA in a manner that focuses on implementation issues that states and EPA regularly face,” explained Carol Hanson, Deputy Director for the Environmental Council of the States. “We are in an era where funds to implement our nation’s environmental statutes are tight, but the sites needing remediation these days are more complex than when the program started. We are in need of flexibility and efficiency more than ever, both at the state and federal level. Overall, we support the changes that these bills seek, and we believe they will improve the implementation of CERCLA and RCRA and help achieve the goals of those statutes more quickly, with more input to the EPA, and with an improved partnership with the states.”
Jeffery Steers, President of the Association of State and Territorial Waste Management Officials, lent his organization’s support to this group of commonsense legislation, telling lawmakers, “ASTSWMO supports the proposed bills, as we believe these provisions help to modernize an often archaic process aimed at cleaning up some of this country’s most contaminated sites while ensuring that States’ authorities are not usurped.”
The Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act of 2013 would remove two outmoded deadlines, one under RCRA and one under the CERCLA. The legislation would eliminate an arbitrary statutory deadline for EPA to review and, if necessary, revise regulations under the RCRA and similarly removes an expired deadline from CERCLA. Current law requires EPA to review or promulgate regulations within timeframes that have proven unworkable and only led to increased litigation. The Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act would authorize EPA to act on these regulations as the agency deems necessary, and in the case of financial assurance regulations under CERCLA 108(b), the bill would preserve existing state financial assurance laws from preemption.
In written testimony, EPA acknowledged, “The current statutory provision requiring review every three years can pose a significant resource burden on EPA given the complexity and volume of EPA’s RCRA regulations.”
The Federal and State Partnership for Environmental Protection Act of 2013 would provide states a greater role in the CERCLA process. The bill requires consultation with the affected state regarding removal or remedial actions and provides credit to states toward the state cost-share for in-kind contributions that are provided for the removal or remedial action. The Federal and State Partnership for Environmental Protection Act would also allow states a greater voice in placing sites on the National Priorities List and would allow for judicial review of the selection of a remedy that is made over the written objection of the affected state.
The Federal Facility Accountability Act of 2013 would require currently or formerly owned federal facilities to comply with relevant state and local laws, as would any non-governmental entity, in doing a CERCLA cleanup. The legislation would also provide for a process by which EPA can review, or a state can request a review by EPA, of actions taken pursuant to delegated CERCLA authority.
The panel will reconvene the hearing next Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at 10:15 a.m. in room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building.