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Superfund Exemption
Small Business Liability Relief Act
House Roll Call No. 494
106th Congress, 2nd Session

Failed: 253-161 (see complete tally)
Congress passed the landmark Superfund law in 1980 to begin cleaning up the nation's most contaminated toxic waste sites. The Superfund law is based on three key principles: first, polluters, not taxpayers, should pay to clean up contamination; second, contamination should be cleaned up permanently; and third, the affected community should be involved in clean up decisions.

For years, opponents in Congress have been searching for ways to weaken or undermine Superfund. One of the most recent attempts is H.R. 5175, the Small Business Liability Relief Act. The bill provides an exemption from clean up responsibility to "small" businesses that sent minimal amounts of toxic waste to a site. However the bill defines "small" very broadly to apply to firms with up to 100 employees.

The bill would also have made the government, not polluters, prove the amount of toxic waste that a polluter sent to a Superfund site, thereby creating an incentive for polluters to destroy records to avoid liability. In addition, the bill would arguably have allowed some businesses to reopen old, settled cases, suing the government to recover money already spent to clean up toxic contamination.

Finally, the bill would potentially have allowed small businesses to escape liability for damages to natural resources, such as wildlife killed by pollution or wetlands contaminated by toxics.

House leaders attempted to bypass the normal committee review process and took H.R. 5175 directly to the House floor for a vote on the suspension calendar-a type of vote normally reserved for non-controversial bills. On September 26, 2000, the House voted 253-161 in favor of the bill (House roll call vote 494); however, because bills under suspension rules must receive a two-thirds majority of all members present and voting, H.R. 5175 failed to pass. NO is the pro-environment vote.

Vote Map: House Roll Call No. 494
Votes For : 253
Votes Against : 161
Not Voting : 19


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