A House Commerce Committee vote set for March 12 could be the industry's last chance to get legislation clarifying lenders' environmental liability this year.

The panel plans a Superfund vote that day, which includes provisions clarifying the extent of a lender's liability for the cleanup of hazardous chemicals, a long-standing priority for the banking industry.

"This is really the last critical push for lender liability this Congress," said John Byrne, senior counsel for the American Bankers Association.

The House Superfund bill has been snarled in interest group disputes that do not concern lender liability provisions. Commerce Committee staffers are "close to agreement with the parts of the business community that had problems with the bill," Mr. Byrne said.

However, even if House Commerce approves the measure, it could have to travel through three other House committees. Superfund's prospects in the Senate are also unclear. Hearings on a revised bill are not expected in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee until April, Mr. Byrne said.

"There are only about 50 legislative days left in this Congress," Mr. Byrne said. "But the glass is still half-full as far as we're concerned."

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