Almost eight months after its introduction, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday deliberated the "Superfund Common-Sense Act," which aims to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from using the Superfund Act to regulate animal waste. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.).
Deliberation among the Energy and Commerce Committee will determine if the bill will move on for consideration in the House.
Farm groups strongly support the bill, saying the intent of the original Superfund Act has been forgotten.
NCBA Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley McDonald said the legislation would restore the original intent of Congress under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, more commonly called the Superfund Law, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
She said the Superfund Law was originally passed by Congress in 1980 to prevent toxic waste from polluting U.S. waters and was never intended for farm waste.
Dairy producers have also shown concern about the use of the Superfund act to regulate animal waste.
Walter Bradley, a representative of the Dairy Farmers of America, testified in front of the committee Wednesday. He said producers aren't looking for any exemptions from the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act, but instead want clarification.
"We are merely seeking clarification under CERCLA and EPCRA that animal manure does not necessitate an emergency response nor does it create a Superfund site," he said. "Congress created the Superfund to deal specifically with the problem of cleaning up toxic waste sites, including hazardous materials. The composition and use of animal manure by farmers does not meet the threshold of being considered a hazardous waste."
McDonald said subjecting farmers and ranchers to CERCLA liability could place the financial burden of nutrient reduction for an entire watershed on a single producer.
"This kind of liability could easily reach into the many millions of dollars and bankrupt family farmers and ranchers," she said.
An identical bill, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), has been introduced in the Senate but not yet referred to committee. NCBA President J.D. Alexander said both bills would amend CERCLA to provide that naturally occurring, organic manure and its nutrient components are not considered a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.
He said that Wednesday's committee hearing shows regulatory relief may be in reach.
"In Washington, everything is one step at a time. This hearing is a very important step towards passing this legislation in the U.S. House," Alexander said. "We encourage the U.S. Senate to follow suit and move on S. 1729 as quickly as possible."