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WASHINGTON-Anyone hoping for signs of change in the Clinton administration's Superfund policy won't find them in the list of "Superfund legislative reform principles" released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The principles were attached to a May 7 letter from EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Cha-fee, R-R.I. The past two congresses have failed to reauthorize the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, which authorizes Superfund, in part because of disagreements over how to reform the program's controversial system of imposing retroactive, strict, and joint and several liability on potentially responsible parties.

But the latest principles offer little if any significant breaks with past administration positions.

"It's essentially a resubmission" of what the administration has put forth before, said David R. Haight, vp-environmental for the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. and director-risk management for CF Industries Inc. in Long Grove, Ill.

For example, the first principle listed is "maintain the principle that those who are responsible for the contamination must pay for the cleanup."

This "polluter pays" principle has been the centerpiece of the administration's Superfund philosophy.

Later in the document, the administration lists proposals that it "strongly opposes." Among those is "repeal of all or part of the current strict, retroactive, and joint and several liability standards."

RIMS and insurance industry groups have repeatedly called for an overhaul of Superfund's liability system, noted Mr. Haight.

The document also repeats the administration's call for "clearly defined exemptions on liability" for certain classes of potentially responsible parties. These include "very small contributors," transporters and generators of municipal waste and "bona fide" prospective purchasers of certain waste sites.

The document reiterates the administration's opposition to "site liability carveouts," or eliminating liability for people based on the type of site, notably multiparty sites.

Mr. Haight also pointed out that the document spells out the administration's opposition to risk assessment requirements, another reform supported by risk managers.

The Clinton administration's principles call for reinstatement of the special taxes that pay for Superfund, which picks up the so-called "orphan shares" of cleanup costs for which no solvent PRPs can be found. Authority to collect the taxes expired more than a year ago, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, has promised to fight renewal of the taxes without significant liability reforms.

In addition, the administration's principles oppose a cap on adding more sites to the National Priorities List of locations covered by the Superfund law. Some reform proponents in the past have proposed limits on lengthening the list, at least until sites already on the NPL have been cleaned up.

The EPA document drew a cool response from Washington-based Superfund Reform '95, a pro-reform group that includes businesses, municipalities, insurers and non-profit organizations.

Following those principles would "condemn the program to a perpetuation of the wasteful unproductive legacy that has characterized it for the past 16 years," said George Baker, the group's executive director.

"It just seems more of the same," said Peter A. Lefkin, senior vp in Fireman's Fund Insurance Co.'s Washington office.

He added that he hopes that the principles do not represent the administration's final word on reauthorization.

"My personal hope is that they reflect a negotiating position and not what they ultimately expect to obtain," added Mr. Lefkin.

"This looks to me like the first shot across the bow. I think the EPA itself has already blown by their own principles in their negotiations with the Senate. Those negotiations are showing a lot of promise," said John Arlington, assistant vp of the American Insurance Assn. in Washington.