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Full Committee Markup

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - 12:00am
Washington, D.C.

Opening Statement By Hon. Bart Gordon

I realize how busy everyone is, and I will be brief in my remarks regarding H.R. 365. 

Many of our committee members will remember this bill from the 109th Congress, when it passed thru the Committee and House unanimously.  This bill also passed the Senate, with two minor changes in the last hours of the 109th Congress.  However, we ran out of time to re-pass the legislation in the House.

Unfortunately, the need for this legislation is just as strong today as when I introduced it a year and a half ago.  We have a terrible problem with methamphetamine in Tennessee, and one side effect of the meth epidemic is the chemical waste dump left behind by meth cooks.

This bill originated from a roundtable discussion in my district where I asked local officials about gaps in the fight against methamphetamine.  Apart from additional funding for existing programs, they all agreed that they needed help in cleaning up former meth sites.  Following that roundtable and a Committee hearing on the issue, we developed this legislation on a bipartisan basis.

H.R 365 focuses on the clean-up needs for former meth labs – a tremendous problem facing communities across the country.  The Drug Enforcement Agency reported more than 12,500 domestic meth lab seizures in 2005 alone.  These meth labs, most often found in residential settings, are contaminated not only with methamphetamine, but also with other toxic residues associated the production of meth. 

These chemical residues pollute the inside of a residence and also threaten septic and water systems.  The meth epidemic has not only devastated families, it has also left thousands of potentially toxic waste dumps spread across the country.

Right now there are unsuspecting families living in homes that were once illegal meth labs.  Dangerous and hidden toxic substances in these sites threaten the health of these families – with children being the most vulnerable to the devastating, long-term effects of exposure. 

H.R. 365 addresses the specific problem of determining the level of clean-up required to ensure that a former meth lab is safe for occupation.  I want to stress that H.R. 365 is not a federal mandate.  Rather, it requires the EPA to develop model, voluntary, health-based, clean-up guidelines for use by states and localities if they desire. 

In addition, H.R. 365 authorizes NIST to initiate a research program to develop meth detection equipment for field use.  This will help law enforcement agents detect active meth labs faster and assist in measuring levels of contamination in former meth labs.  Finally, H.R. 365 requires a study by the National Academy of Sciences on the long-term health impact of exposure to meth labs on children and first-responders.

Specifically H.R. 365:

  • requires EPA, in consulation with NIST and working with states and local authorities, to establish voluntary clean-up guidelines for former meth labs;
  • establishes an EPA research program, in consultation with states and others, to continuously improve the guidelines;
  • requires EPA to establish a technology conference to disseminate the information about the guidelines and to provide a forum for non-federal participants to inform EPA about their problems, needs and experiences with the voluntary guidelines;
  • tasks the National Academy of Sciences to study the residual effects of methamphetamine labs with a particular emphasis on children and first responders;
  • requires NIST to support a research program to develop new meth detection technologies with an emphasis on field kits;
  • ensures that the legislation does not override any existing EPA regulatory authorities;
  • and authorizes a total $5.0 million for EPA and NIST to carry out these activities.

The National Association of Counties has identified the meth epidemic as one of the most devastating problems facing communities across the country.

In the last Congress this bill was endorsed by:

  • The National Association of Counties;
  • The National Sheriff’s Association;
  • The Fraternal Order of Police;
  • The National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition;
  • The National Association of Realtors;
  • The National Multihousing Council; and
  • The National Apartment Association.

H.R. 365 is not a complete solution to the methamphetamine epidemic.  Unfortunately, there will always be people who decide to harm themselves by using and manufacturing dangerous drugs such as meth.  H.R. 365 aims to protect innocent people whose lives are endangered by these illegal activities.

I want to thank Ranking Member Hall, Rep. Wu and Rep. Calvert for working with me on this legislation in the last Congress and for sponsoring this legislation for re-introduction in the 110th Congress.

We will also consider two other important bills today which will raise the awareness of the importance of science and engineering.

Rep. Lipinski has introduced, H.Res. 59, Supporting the Goals & Ideals of National Engineers Week.  National Engineers Week, February 18-24, raises public awareness of the important and positive contributions made by engineers to our quality of life.

In addition, Rep. Johnson has introduced H.Con.Res 34, Honoring the Life of Percy Lavon Julian, a pioneering African-American chemist.  A member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1973, he holds over 100 patents in areas as wide-ranging as foam fire retardants and treatment for glaucoma.

The authors of these bills will have more to say about them as we consider them today.  We spend a lot of time talking about improving K-12 math and science education and encouraging our children to enter science and engineering fields to improve our economic competitiveness.  These two bills go far toward raising public awareness about the types of people and the important job opportunities in these fields.

I would urge you to support these three bills.

Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2007

Bill Number Legislative Report Markup Transcript
H.R. 365110-8Read here

Supporting the Goals and Ideals of National Engineers Week

Bill Number Legislative Report Markup Transcript
H. Res. 59  

Honoring the Life of Percy Lavon Julian

Bill Number Legislative Report Markup Transcript
H. Con. Res. 34  
110th Congress