The Environmental Protection Agency, in a policy shift, said yesterday that it will try to write new regulations to draw the line more clearly between lenders who participate in managing property that requires cleanup of hazardous waste and lenders who take title to protect their loans but don't participate in the property's management.
EPA Assistant Administrator James M. Strock told a congressional panel that the agency believes the complications that have evolved out of the Superfund law require some clarification.
But he added that the EPA is concerned that attempts to sort out the confusion should not be so broadly written that they exempt lenders and others who should be held accountable.
Bankers and other lenders have expressed concern about court decisions that they say have broadened the reach of the Superfund law to hold them liable in situations where they did not participate in the pollution and were unaware of it at the time loans were made. State and federal agencies that have become the receivers for insolvent savings and loan associations also have inherited liability for some cleanups.
Rep. Thomas A. Luken (D-Ohio), chairman of the House subcommittee on transportation and hazardous materials, before which Strock testified, said he was pleased with the EPA's willingness to tackle the issue. He described it "a clear recognition that a serious problem exists... ."