- October 1 - The polluter funded trust from which the Superfund program got its name is effectively bankrupt today, causing regular taxpayers to pay up to 317% more to clean up toxic waste sites next year than in 1995, the year Superfund's polluter pays fees expired, according to an analysis by U.S. PIRG.
A recent report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) confirmed that Superfund's trust fund would be essentially gone by September 30-- the end of fiscal year 2003-- leaving regular taxpayers to shoulder the financial burden for toxic waste cleanups.
"The bankruptcy of the Superfund trust fund marks a dramatic shift in toxic waste cleanup policy. The Bush Administration is letting polluting industries off the hook again and leaving regular taxpayers to pay cleanup costs," said Julie Wolk, Environmental Health Advocate for U.S. PIRG.
In 1995, the year Superfund's polluter pays fees expired, taxpayers paid for only 18% of the Superfund program, or $300 million. Next year, American taxpayers will pay between $1.1 and $1.265 billion for the program, an increase of between 263% and 317%. Meanwhile, large polluting corporations enjoy a $4 million per day tax break as long as the Superfund polluter pays fees are not reinstated.
Former Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton all collected or supported reinstatement of the polluter pays fees, but the Bush administration has expressed its opposition to reinstating the fees.
"At the same time that taxpayers are paying more and polluters are paying less, the number of Superfund sites getting cleaned up has been cut in half," said Wolk. "Under the Bush Administration, the one in four Americans, including more than 10 million children, who still lives within four miles of a Superfund toxic waste site will continue to be exposed to toxic chemicals," Wolk concluded.
Last year, the Bush Administration cleaned up only 42 Superfund toxic waste sites and expects to clean up approximately 40 sites this year. This is a more than 50% decrease from the late 1990's when EPA cleaned up an average of 87 sites per year. According to a congressionally requested study completed in 2001, the Bush administration has under-funded the Superfund program by between $1.2 and $1.8 billion from 2001-2004.
U.S. PIRG is the national lobby office for the state PIRGs. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations.
See a breakdown of the state-by-state cost to taxpayers at http://www.uspirg.org/StatebyStateCosts1995-2004.PDF