The international business community is ready to withdraw its industrial
investments in the United States if Congress passes a Superfund bill without a
repeal of retroactive liability.
The current Superfund program "affects first and foremost U.S. citizens and businesses, but it can have also a considerable impact on foreign investors," the United States Council for International Business said in a position paper sent to U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and several members of Congress."The latter may be led to reconsider further investment in the United States, or else choose to locate their U.S. operations in pristine areas, where the risk of becoming liable for historic pollution is minimal," warned the group, the American affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce. The chamber represents thousands of companies and business associations in 140 countries, said Abraham Katz, USCIB president.
Foreign investment accounts for a "significant portion of U.S. industrial output and service industries revenues, involving hundreds of thousands of jobs," he wrote in a letter accompanying the position paper.
The position paper was made public Tuesday by the ICC's American affiliate. The United States Council for International Business called for repeal of retroactive liability provisions. Its release comes two days before Rep. Mike Oxley, chairman of the Commerce Committee's Commerce, Trade and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, holds hearings on the liability provisions of his Superfund reform bill. The federal program expires at year's end unless reauthorized by Congress.
Mr. Oxley, who originally backed the idea of repealing all retroactive liability for polluters before 1987, changed his plan to eliminate liability only for municipal landfills and for small businesses responsible for less than 1 percent of the pollution before 1987. Larger firms found at fault by a third-party mediator would be reimbursed for cleanup expenses from a trust fund.
The business group supports the Oxley bill's provisions basing cleanups on the actual planned land use and more flexibility in finding cleanup solutions without burdening any industry.
But reauthorizing Superfund with even limited liability repeal will not only affect international investment in the United States, but "will establish a precedent that would be followed by other countries that are just now beginning to address waste cleanup," Mr. Katz said.
Norine Kennedy, a spokeswoman for the USCIB, said the international group, representing corporate executives from the world's leading trading nations, had no plans to testify before the subcommittee.