WASHINGTON -- Rep. Dan Rostenkowski was stymied in his efforts Friday to add an amendment to Superfund legislation that would have let private firms use tax-exempt bonds to clean up and redevelop contaminated industrial sites.
The Illinois Democrat had attempted to offer his amendment during consideration of the legislation by the House Ways and Means Committee, of which he is a member. But Rep. Sam Gibbons, D-Fla., the acting chairman of the panel, told Rostenkowski he would not permit the amendment to be considered because it was not directly relevant to the Superfund bill.
Gibbons' move was a parliamentary maneuver that kept the amendment from being voted on or even debated. He said he could only permit consideration of amendments that directly related to Title IX of the Superfund bill, which provides for the taxes and other revenue-raising measures necessary to pay for the toxic waste cleanup called for under the statute.
Gibbons said he regretted making the parliamentary ruling against Rostenkowski, who was forced to relinquish his chairmanship of the committee in June when he was charged in a 17-count felony indictment related to the House Post Office scandal.
"I can't remember your ever pulling the rule book on me" Gibbons said to Rostenkowski before making his ruling. Gibbons acknowledged that Rostenkowski's proposal "has a lot of popular support" on the committee, but "regrettably, the amendment is not germane."
Rostenkowski's proposal would have set up a pilot program in more than a dozen
cities and several rural areas, where tax incentives would be offered to spur redevelopment of contaminated sites.
One incentive would have been a new category of private-activity bond. called an environmental remediation bond, that could be issued in the designated areas to help private firms purchase and clean up the sites. The bonds would be subject to the private-activity volume cap.
Rostenkowski added a last-minute change to the proposal requiring that no jurisdiction be permitted to issue more than $10 million of environmental remediation bonds.
In addition to the bond provision. Rostenkowski's proposal would also have offered a tax credit to businesses willing to clean up polluted sites, as long as the firms were not responsible for the contamination. The companies would be eligible for a credit equal to 25% of the total cost of cleaning up the site. The Public Securities Association had unsuccessfully urged approval of the measure, saying in a letter to Gibbons last week that it "would encourage public-private partnerships to address some of the country's most pressing environmental problems in a cost-effective manner." The overall legislation being considered by Ways and Means is designed to reauthorize the so-called Superfund law, which was first passed in 1980 and then reauthorized in 1986 and 1991. The law provides for a fund to clean Up thousands of sites around the country identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as having been contaminated by industrial waste.