In 1991 our company received a letter from the EPA that we were a ‘PRP’ which stands for a ‘Potentially Responsible Party’ for an environmental cleanup near Tampa, Florida. In 1980 Congress passed the act which created the Superfund, which was a pool of funds administered by a new bureaucracy.

This new bureaucracy decided that since we had sold lead batteries to a lead recycling firm that, according to the new law, we were therefore responsible for their downstream liability.  The recycler disposed of the lead acid improperly, causing water pollution in a nearby swamp.

But we sold the batteries two years before the law was enacted. Didn’t matter; we were held retroactively liable.  We could not explain our innocence to a jury because there was no jury; just a ruling from the Department of Justice.  We were directed to participate in the cleanup or face fines of $25,000 per day.  My daughter then a new born would be held liable as a descendent of a targeted business.

We were one of thousands of scrap yards that sent batteries to the site; but one of a few dozen that were actually viable enough to fund a cleanup. We were held jointly and severally liable for the cleanup, so if one of the other PRPs went bankrupt we had to cover their share.

When we found out that an environmental remediation company had damaged the site prior to our involvement we sought to sue them for their liability only to find out that they had worked for the EPA and were indemnified for their negligence and incompetence. This meant that even if we proved their negligence in court that the cost of their action would be charged back to US as an ongoing site expense.

Over the next 15 years our ‘cleanup group’ spent more on legal bills than we spend on the cleanup. An entire industry of environmental lawyers grew to respond to the Kafkaesque world created by the EPA and Superfund.  As one of the other PRPs noted, ” Our grandparents left countries because of laws like this.”

When the Superfund bill was passed it enjoyed widespread support from both parties to address the very real concern over the funding to clean up about 1400 identified sites.  But like other such ‘comprehensive’ laws the details are rarely identified in the bill itself.  The details are written and enforced by a bureaucracy that writes rules that our elected representatives never see, that are never debated at town hall meetings, that are never joked about by John Stewart or Bill Maher, that never hear the scorn from Bill O’Reily or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, and are too complicated to be addressed by the great unwashed sending in their letter to the editors.

This is why the details and hot points about the still to be seen Health Care Bill are irrelevant and distracting.  Once the government is able to establish a bureaucracy to write the rules and govern the use of our health care system the real damage will be beyond the scope of the Tea Parties, Twitterers, and even our own legislators.  This is the real truth about how the laws work in this country, especially when we seek ‘comprehensive ‘reform.   “Comprehensive reforms” create bureaucracies that are unaccountable and indestructible.  They relegate our basic systems of justice to the dustbins of history.

Instead of trying to recreate an entire system we should identify the broken parts and fix them, one at a time if necessary. It would be much easier to get a bipartisan agreement and actually get something passed.  We agree that there are parts of the system that need change, but in our rush to ‘do something’ we attempt to do everything and end up with nothing.

But amidst the arguments and controversies this bill will be compromised at any cost as long as the end result is the establishment of a government bureaucracy to control our health care system. That is when the real damage will be done.