The argument over retroactive liability-whether waste generators at a Superfund site should be forced to pay for cleanup, even though Superfund regulations didn't even exist when the waste was discarded-has come to the fore of the Superfund reauthorization debate. It is a vital issue to everyone in the rubber industry.
Those who support repealing retroactive liability, including tire dealers and other small-business operators, decry the unfairness of being faced with massive indemnity for what was, after all, legal waste disposal. Furthermore, repealing retroactive liability kills the chance of big polluters suing them for a share of the cleanup. No matter how unfair the lawsuit, it's almost always cheaper to pay the claim than fight it in the courts.
Others, however, have serious reservations about repeal. Hazardous waste sites must be eliminated in any case, they say; without the revenue from retroactive liability judgments, government will have no choice but to increase taxes to pay for cleanup. Not only will everyone have to pay, but taxpayers will turn their wrath on those who supported repeal, they fear.
Retroactive liability has become the most controversial issue in a law that even its supporters say is badly flawed and vastly more expensive than it was ever intended to be. It is impossible that any solution will get everyone's support. But for everyone's sake, a workable plan for Superfund liability reform needs to be found-and soon.
It was difficult to accept the fact that Gates Rubber Co. was looking for a public merger partner. As the largest privately held rubber product maker in the U.S., it just seemed right that Gates should continue on its own path.
But as the automotive and other businesses changed, Gates knew it needed to team up with a public firm that will allow it to keep pace.
To learn, however, that Gates may sell to a foreign company is even more disturbing. True, the hose and belt maker moved earlier than most at setting up operations outside the U.S., especially in Europe.
Also true, that the Gates family must protect its own rights, and dangling the possibility of a foreign buyer could help boost the eventual selling price. But the thought of Gates having a non-U.S. address just doesn't seem right.