FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                        ENR
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21, 1995                       (202) 616-2771
                                              TDD (202) 514-1888  


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a successful end to a toxic dump disaster
that became synonymous with the hazards of environmental
pollution, and that gave birth to the nation's Superfund program
to clean up the most hazardous toxic waste sites, the Justice
Department and the Environmental Protection Agency announced
today that the Occidental Chemical Corporation will pay the
government $129 million to cover the costs of the Love Canal
incident that began in the late 1970's.  The agreement results
from a Justice Department lawsuit filed 16 years ago after a
toxic waste nightmare forced the evacuation of more than one
thousand homes, an elementary school and an entire neighborhood
in Niagara Falls, New York. 
     Attorney General Janet Reno said the settlement "should send
a message of federal persistence and tenacity." 
     "If Congress will give us the resources, we will work to get
polluters to pay their share," said Reno.  She noted that
Congress is currently attempting to cut environmental
     EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner said "the Love Canal
settlement underscores this Administration's firm commitment to
ensuring that polluters -- not the American people -- pick up the
tab for cleaning up toxic waste dumps.  Strong enforcement of our
nation's environmental laws is vital to protecting the health of
the one in four Americans who still lives near toxic waste dumps. 
     Under the terms of today's settlement, the federal
government would get back all of the $101 million it spent on
cleanup and $28 million in interest.  Occidental will pay $102
million to the EPA Superfund and $27 million to the United States
on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  FEMA
funded early cleanup and relocation activities, prior to the
enactment of the Superfund law in December 1980.
     The Love Canal saga dates back to 1942 when the Hooker 
Chemical Corporation, Occidental's corporate predecessor, began
dumping toxic chemicals into an abandoned canal in the city of
Niagara Falls in western New York.  Over the next eleven years,
Hooker dumped 20,000 tons of chemicals into Love Canal. 
Thereafter, it sold the property to the Niagara Falls School
Board.  Homes and a school were built adjacent to the canal.

     In 1977, Love Canal area residents began complaining about
the strange substances oozing into their basements.  Between 1978
and 1980, President Jimmy Carter used disaster relief authority
to declare two Federal emergencies in the area.  The government
funded the initial cleanup efforts and relocated hundreds of area
residents.  The disaster led Congress, in 1980, to enact the
Superfund law, which established a cleanup program for toxic
waste sites around the nation and required waste dumpers to pay
cleanup costs.
     After the passage of the Superfund law, the federal
government, working in tandem with the State of New York, cleaned
up the Love Canal site.  Dioxin was removed from creeks and
sewers adjacent to the Love Canal to ensure safety of children
who played in the creeks and residents who might eat contaminated
fish.  Federal and state agencies also improved and continued to
operate a leachate collection system, first built in 1978-79, to
prevent contaminated groundwater from spreading outward from the
Canal.  Groundwater around the Canal was monitored to make sure
the collection system was working.  Extensive additional studies
of the area were done.  
     In 1988, the state and federal government declared that most
of the area was again suitable for residential use, and the Love
Canal Area Revitalization Authority began selling the abandoned
homes to private citizens.  Virtually all remedial activities at
the site, other than the continuing operation of the leachate
collection system, were completed by 1989.
     The Federal District Court in Buffalo had already ruled that
Occidental was a "responsible party" under the Superfund law (a
separate question from determining the amount of liability).  In
the lawsuit, Occidental had charged that the United States was
also a responsible party and should contribute toward the cleanup
costs based on regulatory actions or alleged dumping by several
federal agencies.  The United States denied Occidental's charges
and the issue went to trial, but the court has not yet ruled on
the claims.  In today's settlement, the government agreed to pay
an additional $8 million  of the total cleanup costs to resolve
these claims.       
     Assistant Attorney General Lois J. Schiffer, in charge of
the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources
Division,  criticized current Superfund proposals which might
give Occidental a $64.5 million tax credit for its Love Canal
payment.  Schiffer
said, "This would destroy the fundamental principle that a
polluter should pay to clean up its own mess."  Schiffer noted
that one of the reasons the case was not settled earlier was that
Occidental pursued extensive litigation to test the limits of the
Superfund law.       

     Administrator Browner added, "elimination of the
'retroactive liability' provisions in the Superfund law -- as
some in Congress have proposed -- would have let this polluter
off the hook, because Hooker dumped the toxic waste that polluted
Love Canal in the 1940's and 1950's."

     The Federal Emergency Management Agency also expressed
satisfaction with the settlement.  "We are pleased that the
Superfund law has enabled us to recover our money," said William
Tidball, Associate Director of FEMA's Response and Recovery
Directorate.  "We are also pleased that Superfund exists so that
we no longer have to rely on disaster authorities to address
these kinds of problems, as we did at the beginning of the Love
Canal case."
     The consent decree will be lodged today in Buffalo before
U.S. District Judge John T. Curtin who has presided over the case
since its inception.  The settlement will undergo a 30-day notice
and comment period prior to entry by the Court.