A measure to set up a state Superfund that would deal with hazardous wastes was approved Wednesday by the Legislature's Health Interim Committee.
The bill would appropriate more than $4.2 million from the general fund for cleanup projects and to establish the fund. Rep. R. Lee Ellertson, R-Orem, will sponsor the legislation, which was approved by the Hazardous Waste Task Force.Kenneth Alkema, director of the Utah Division of Environmental Health, said $1.6 million of the total would be the state's contribution toward cleaning up the Sharon Steel tailings. "Our best estimate of what it's going to cost (for the cleanup project) is between $50 million and $100 million," he said.
Under federal law, the state pays 10 percent of costs in such projects. Utah will have to underwrite $5 million to $10 million of the Sharon Steel cleanup.
Alkema said the federal government has sued to recover cleanup costs from potentially responsible parties.
The bill would also appropriate $120,000 as Utah's 10 percent contribution toward cleaning up leaking underground storage tanks, and $2.5 million to launch the fund. This money could be used for studies to convince responsible parties they should pay for their environmental problems.
John Fellows, an attorney for the Legislature, said the fund would deal with hazardous waste sites on the Environmental Protection Agency's national priority list, and sites that are being considered for the list.
As proposed in the bill, the fund would include voluntary contributions, civil penalties and legislative appropriations. But legislators are considering keeping the civil penalties available to run department programs, rather than earmarking them for the mitigation fund.
The fund could be used to investigate sites, if potentially responsible parties can't be forced to pay for the investigation. It could also help pay some cleanup costs, at least until responsible parties are required to pay.