U.S. Rep Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, today introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would reinstate a Superfund tax to ensure polluters, not taxpayers, pay for the cleanup of all Superfund sites.
In 1995, despite opposition from Pallone and other Democrats, a Republican Congress allowed the Superfund tax to expire. Before its expiration, the collected taxes were placed into a Superfund Trust Fund that was used for the clean up of so-called "orphaned sites," where the party responsible for the pollution either no longer existed or could not afford the cost of the cleanup.
As a result of Congress' inaction 13 years ago, the Superfund Trust Fund dwindled from a high of $3.8 billion in 1997 to zero in 2003. With no money left in the trust fund, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now forced to pick and choose which projects to begin with the limited funds it receives each year through the appropriations process.
Consequently, Superfund cleanups have been delayed in recent years. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2004, the EPA confirmed that it was unable to start remediation at 19 sites that were ready for cleanup due to a lack of funding. One year later, the EPA's Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation stated that the demands on the Superfund budget have increased so much that not all projects ready for construction in a given year can be funded.
"The American taxpayer should not be paying for the mistakes of corporate polluters," Pallone said. "Today, Superfund sites all around our nation are ready for clean up, but the EPA cannot proceed due to a lack of funds. This is not the way the Superfund program was intended to work. Congress must pass this legislation so that the EPA can once again rely on the trust fund to pay for Superfund cleanups."
The Superfund Polluter Pays Act of 2009 will replenish the Superfund Trust Fund by reinstituting the taxes oil and gas companies paid between 1980 and 1996. The legislation reinstates through FY 2019 a 9.7 cents a barrel tax on petroleum, a tax on 42 chemicals and a corporate environmental income tax of .12 percent on taxable income in excess of $2 million.