House Passes Bill Bolstering State Authority in Hazardous-Waste Cleanup

NEW YORK - MARCH 02: The heavily polluted Gowanus Canal on March 2, 2010 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The 140-year-old Brooklyn waterway has just been named as a Superfund site by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The move to cleanup of the Gowanus, which was opposed by the Bloomberg administration, will cost between $300 million and $500 million and could take 10 to 12 years.  (National Journal)

The House passed legislation on Thursday to amend a law already on the books governing federal cleanup of Superfund and hazardous waste sites.

The bill was approved on a party-line vote of 225-188, with only five Democrats supporting the measure, including Reps. Jim Costa of California, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, and Nick Rahall of West Virginia. The nill is not likely to be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The legislation — the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act — is a combination of three separate measures introduced by Republican Reps. Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Bill Johnson and Bob Latta of Ohio. The package of bills would give states the ability to assign priority to Superfund cleanups managed by federal laws, impose state and local laws on federal cleanup projects, and block the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing regulations for hazardous waste disposal in states where similar regulations already exist.

House conservatives used the bill's passage as a chance to put themselves on record in support of eliminating federal overreach in the environmental sector.

"We are five years into this failed experiment of increased government spending, taxation, and regulation," Gardner said in a statement. "The results are clear: The power to grow our economy and put Americans back to work lies in the private sector. With more than 80,000 pages of new federal regulations published in 2013 alone, commonsense revisions of existing rules and regulations are a vital part of ensuring businesses that power our state and local economies are given the capability to grow."

There was plenty of opposition to the legislation, however.

The White House issued a statement saying the president would veto the bill if it reached his desk. And more than 120 interest groups, including environmental advocacy organizations such as Earthjustice, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, sent a letter to Congress opposing the measure.

The legislation "substantially increases the potential for harm in communities across the United States. As one in four Americans live within three miles of a hazardous-waste site, safe management and prompt cleanup of toxic waste sites are essential to our nation's health and economy," the signatories wrote.