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Public Statements

Congressional Budget for the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2005

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of Senator Lautenberg's amendment to provide additional resources for the Superfund trust fund. I think my colleagues would all agree on the success of the Superfund Program. Since its inception in 1980, we have cleaned up 890 of the most hazardous toxic waste sites in communities around the country, including 44 in my home State of Washington. The Environmental Protection Agency's enforcement of the "polluter-pays principle" has helped clean up these sites.

Unfortunately, since the Superfund fees expired in 1995, American taxpayers have picked up an increasingly large share of cleanup costs and today are bearing almost the entire burden of paying for sites abandoned by polluting corporations. That is why the amendment before us is really about fairness-it holds polluting industries accountable and protects public health and safety. I believe a recent editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer makes the point well:

Washington taxpayers paid only $7 million in 1995 for Superfund program costs. Next year, we will pay between $25 million and $30 million. Americans are now paying for the worst toxic waste sites in the country with our health and our tax dollars.

This amendment will also help stem the ongoing erosion of funding for the Superfund Program. According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, the overall Superfund appropriations have dropped 35 percent in real terms since 1993, even while highly contaminated hazardous waste sites continue to be added to the National Priorities List, the Environmental Protection Agency's list of the Nation's most contaminated sites. In fact, at the end of fiscal year 2002, the National Priorities List had 1,233 sites in various stages of cleanup.

The Environmental Protection Agency's own Inspector General reported in January 2003 that the agency is facing Superfund shortfalls exceeding $174 million. That means the Bunker Hill site on the border of Washington and Idaho is only receiving $15 million this year, even though the Environmental Protection Agency estimated a need for $37.8 million. To put that in personal terms, I quote directly from the Inspector General's report:

The impact of reduced funds for the Bunker Hill site is associated with risk to human health, particularly for young children and pregnant women, from lead contamination in a residential area.

I think this quote, directly from the Environmental Protection Agency, tells us all how critical it is we support this amendment. Reinstating the fees means that we can shift costs away from overburdened taxpayers, protect Americans from exposure to dangerous toxic chemicals, and revitalize properties that blight our nation and often inhibit urban redevelopment.

Waste sites still threaten more than 65 million Americans who live within 4 miles of a Superfund toxic waste site. And there are 40,000 other sites of concern that have not yet been listed on the National Priorities List. There was a very good reason for initiating a Superfund fee 23 years ago, and, until the remaining Superfund sites are cleaned up, we should reinstate and maintain this important environmental fee. I urge my colleagues to support this critical amendment.

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