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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 26, 2003
9:36 AM
CONTACT: U.S. PIRG
Julie Wolk, 202-246-0952
Senate Votes Down Toxic Waste Cleanup Funding
 
WASHINGTON - 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.

"Reinstating 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.

Regular taxpayers, 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.

The Superfund 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.

"People and 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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