WASHINGTON -- Superfund legislation took an important step toward passage this week as the Senate Finance Committee announced plans to hold a hearing on the bill Sept. 14.

The news buoyed the banking industry's hopes for enactment before Congress adjourns in October. The legislation would authorize regulators to limit liability when a lender forecloses on contaminated properties.

A Finance Committee vote, which has not been scheduled yet, is the final hurdle the bill must clear before facing a full Senate vote.

John Byrne, senior counsel for the American Bankers Association, predicted approval because the Senate Finance Committee shares four influential members with the Environment and Public Works Committee, which approved the bill early last month.

A companion bill, passed by the House Ways and Means Committee last month, is expected to be brought up on the House floor after Congress returns on Sept. 12.

"You've got to feel good with all of these committees under our belt," Mr. Byrne said. "I'd hate to see this not happen now."

Prospects for the measure improved dramatically when it became apparent that Congress would not be able to pass comprehensive health care legislation this year.

"They certainly will have floor time, with health care being practically dead this year," Mr; Byrne said. "By the end of next week, we'll be able to make some good predictions."

The lender liability provisions would codify a 1992 Environmental Protection Agency rule that was overturned by a federal appeals court last February.

The measure temporarily stalled in House Ways and Means as lawmakers tried to hammer out a plan to tax insurers. The provision, finally approved by the panel will raise $8.1 billion through taxes on insurance companies.

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