MARCH 26, 2003
Julie Wolk, 202-246-0952
Senate Votes Down Toxic Waste Cleanup Funding
- March 26 - The Senate defeated a measure to reinstate Superfund's
polluter pays fees to make polluters, instead of regular taxpayers,
foot the bill for toxic cleanups. Senator Lautenberg's amendment
to the Budget Resolution, which was defeated 43 to 56, would have
funded toxic cleanups at Superfund sites across the country, protecting
the public health of millions of citizens.
Superfund's polluter pays fees would provide more money for toxic
waste cleanups and shift the burden of paying to run the Superfund
program from taxpayers to polluting industries," said U.S. PIRG
Environmental Health Advocate Julie Wolk. . "Every April 15, average
Americans pay their taxes, but the Bush administration is letting
polluters off the hook tax-free," she continued.
who paid only 18 percent of program costs in 1996, would pay 79
percent or more of program costs in 2004 under the President's
budget request. Superfund's original 'polluter pays' funding mechanism
expired in 1995, and Superfund's trust fund, which contained a
high of $3.6 billion at that time, will be nearly exhausted by
the end of 2004. As the fund diminishes to zero, taxpayers could
pay for the entire program. Former Presidents Reagan, George H.W.
Bush, and Clinton all collected and supported reauthorization
of the polluter pays fees, but the Bush Administration has expressed
its opposition to reinstating the fees. Senator Lautenberg's amendment
would have replenished Superfund's trust fund and shifted costs
back to polluting industries.
program has experienced a major lack of funding in recent years,
with site cleanups slowing down nearly 50% in the last two years.
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency cleaned up only
42 Superfund toxic waste sites compared to an average of 86 sites
per year in the middle and late 1990's. Last year, EPA under-funded
cleanups by $229 million, or 45 percent.
communities across the country remain at risk of chemical exposure
as long as the Superfund program is underfunded," said Wolk. "It's
time to start protecting communities and refund the program that
has been proven to clean up toxic waste sites," she concluded.
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