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January 13, 2000 - BUSH ADDS MILLIONS TO PUBLIC TAB FOR TOXIC CLEANUPS


Austin....Texas Governor George Bush sponsored an industry rewrite of state hazardous waste laws to shift millions of dollars in toxic cleanup costs from banks and landowners to state taxpayers, according to documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER).

As one of his early environmental initiatives, Gov. Bush commissioned an industry-dominated "workgroup" to reevaluate Texas's hazardous waste cleanup laws. The resulting plan largely eliminated the "polluter pays" principles found in federal and most state hazardous waste cleanup ("Superfund") laws. The final bill which Gov. Bush signed into law contained a stunning array of new devices to limit liability for lenders and fiduciaries for toxic cleanup and public health impacts, including:

> "covenants not to sue" to absolve companies of the prospect of being held liable;

> "certificates of innocence" to immunize lenders and landowners from the financial consequences of what is found on their land;

> "partial settlements" where the polluter pays less than the full cost of the cleanup.

"By conferring ‘certificates of innocence' on banks and industrial property owners, Governor Bush has made the innocent taxpayer financially responsible for the pollution of others," stated Texas PEER Coordinator Erin Rogers. "Today, the ordinary citizens of Texas have less power to trigger cleanups, less notice of when promised cleanups are not being completed and less ability to hold polluters responsible — the only thing they have more of is financial liability."

NOTE: Next week, Texas PEER traces campaign contributions from the beneficiaries of the Superfund rewrite.





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