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The Reauthorization of Superfund: Can the Deal of the Century Be Saved?

January 1985

Citation: 25 ELR 10016

Issue: 1

Author: Rena Steinzor

The 1990s mark the end of an era when pitched legislative battles can lead to either sound or timely public policy. Rather, the formulation of consensus by a critical mass of private-sector stakeholders is the only way to achieve the timely reauthorization of Superfund and may be the best (if not the only) way to break the gridlock that paralyzes other legislative debates. The Superfund consensus was achieved because of the despair over the current state of the program shared by the full spectrum of private-sector stakeholders and as a direct result of a negotiation process with attributes that should be duplicated in other contexts. Several forces are at work to destroy this consensus, and these forces must be curbed. This Dialogue begins with an analysis of the political context in which the "deal of the century" was forged. It then turns to an examination of the NCS process and its implications for future consensus-building. It reviews how the consensus legislation would deal with the two most important issues in the reauthorization debate—Superfund's cleanup standards and liability system. Lastly, it discusses the options available to the 104th Congress as it faces the December 1995 deadline.

Rena I. Steinzor is an Associate Professor and Director of the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Maryland Law School. She served as senior staff member for the municipal representative on the National Commission on Superfund, Susan M. Thornton, Mayor of Littleton, Colorado. During the last reauthorization of Superfund (1983-1986), she was counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee with primary jurisdiction over the legislation, then chaired by James J. Florio (D-N.J.). She gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Richard J. Facciolo, Ann M. Lembo, John R. Woolums, and Matthew S. Gilman in researching this Dialogue.

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