Supporters of the administrations Superfund reform proposal are fearful that they are running out of time in the congressional session and that an expected increase in Republican members next year wont necessarily set the stage for a more favorable bill.

If Superfund isnt passed this year, Congress is likely to give away the programs major source of funding, said Morton L. Mullins, vice president for regulatory affairs at the Chemical Manufacturers Association, at a July 20 briefing sponsored by Superfund Reform Now, a coalition that includes local governments, environmentalists, bankers, insurers and manufacturers.

He said Superfund raises $300 million to $500 million more per year than it spends and that the government has a reserve of $2 billion. Although some insurance companies remain opposed to the reform proposal, many mortgage lenders favor it because they think it will remove a cloud from certain kinds of property loans, particularly commercial deals involving operations such as gas stations or dry cleaners.

[Superfund revenues are] sitting in the Treasury, earning interest and completely off limits, Mullins said. But, budget officials look at Superfund and see a large pot of money ripe for the taking. He said the Superfund money has been considered for everything from welfare reform to paying for the cost of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

The wolves are at Superfunds door and theyre licking their chops, Mullins said. The only way to send them away is to push Superfund reform through Congress this year, and put the Superfund tax dollars under lock and key. Superfund money comes from two taxes on chemical and petroleum products as well as the Corporate Environmental Tax, Mullins said. But on Page 460 of the welfare reform bill, the administration proposes extending the Corporate Environmental Tax for 25 months to help pay for welfare reform, he said.

The problem, as with many other congressional initiatives, is that time is running short. Im most concerned about how little time there is remaining, said Alfred Pollard, a lobbyist for the Bankers Roundtable, which represents the countrys 100 largest banks.

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