Skip to content

Should Congress reinstate the “Superfund taxes”?

2010 July 29

From 1980 to 1995, the Superfund program was funded largely by taxes on crude oil, imported petroleum products, hazardous chemicals, imported substances that use hazardous chemicals as a feedstock, and on corporate modified alternative minimum taxable income. These taxes were commonly referred to as the “Superfund taxes” or “polluter pays taxes”. Since those taxes expired at the beginning of 1996, Superfund has been largely financed from General Revenue transfers to the Superfund Trust Fund. On June 21, EPA sent a letter to Congress supporting the reinstatement of the taxes.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

27 Responses leave one →
  1. lynne welsh of MA DEP permalink
    July 29, 2010

    I do support re-instituting this tax. As we have dramatically seen over the past 100 days, individual spills overwhelm any one local, federal or private company’s resources. Therefore a common tax should be put in a pool to deal with not only superfund sites but catastrophic environmental empacts and the surrounding neighborhoods.

    Lynne Welsh

  2. J. M. Ensminger of Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel permalink
    July 29, 2010

    Absolutely! Let the people who are profiting by polluting the environment pay for cleaning it up…that is only fair! Once you start cutting into their profit margins they will more than likely find safe alternatives…J. M. Ensminger

  3. Oliver Paladin of permalink
    July 29, 2010

    Only if they eliminate the 10% cost share and 100% O&M requirement on States for Fund Lead sites.

  4. Mickey Hartnett of retired permalink
    July 29, 2010

    In my former life managing Superfund remediation projects and conducting oversight of DOD and DOE cleanups the public always had a double standard on funding a cleanup:
    – If it is Superfund funding – spend as much as possible.
    – If it is tax payers funding then economize on the cleanup.

    Therefore, a new tax on the public (it is a hidden tax that everyone will pay for) to fund Superfund again is not a good idea and more money will get wasted.

  5. Dorothy Coleman of National Assn of Manufacturers permalink
    July 29, 2010

    The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) strongly opposes current efforts to reimpose $19 billion in Superfund taxes on American businesses. Manufacturers in particular would be hard hit by the proposal that includes a per barrel tax on crude oil and petroleum products as well as an excise tax on feedstock chemicals and a general corporate tax rate increase.

    Recent reports confirm that the manufacturing sector and the broader U.S. economy continue to struggle to recover from a recession. Imposing an anti-manufacturing, anti-growth tax increase on companies at this time could further stifle our fragile economy and make us even less competitive in the global marketplace. Moreover, there is no evidence that the clean-up of so-called “Superfund” sites has been delayed or otherwise negatively impacted since the tax expired in 1995.

    Reinstatement of the excise tax on chemicals represents a significant burden on NAM members, both as manufacturers and users of industrial chemicals. U.S. chemical manufacturers already operate with thin margins in a highly competitive global market. In addition, more than half of all manufacturers rely on chemical industry inputs in their production process. Imposing an excise tax raises production costs. Similarly, the proposed per barrel tax on oil and petroleum products would increase costs for a wide range of industrial consumers. Overall, these excise taxes will create a ripple effect throughout the economy, resulting in job loss and higher operating costs for manufacturers.

    The proposed reinstatement of the Superfund environmental income tax on all large and medium-size corporations would raise some $12 billion. While the amount imposed on individual corporations is not excessively onerous, it does represent an additional administrative and financial cost to the already heavy corporate tax burden faced by U.S. corporations.

    Moreover, NAM disagrees with recent statements from the Administration urging Congress to reinstate the Superfund taxes to provide a source of revenue to support the clean-up of contaminated sites. Since the federal government established the Superfund program in 1980 to clean-up the nation’s hazardous waste sites, taxes have not controlled the Superfund budget or the level of clean-up activity by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In fact, the federal levels for clean-up spending have remained relatively constant and the Administration has not requested any additional funding in its latest budget. In addition, the funds appropriated for the Superfund budget go towards other activities besides cleanup, including research, administration and emergency response.

    Manufacturers identified as “Potentially Responsible Parties” at Superfund sites already are participating in cleanup activities. These companies frequently are members of groups that fund cleanups and participate in investigations under Superfund. The groups also become responsible for so called “orphan share,” particularly when EPA caps “orphan share” liability at the amount due for past costs. With the reimposition of the Superfund tax, these manufacturers will contribute three times towards site cleanup.

    Because of the importance of this issue to manufacturers and our broader economy, NAM strongly urges you to drop any efforts to revive the Superfund taxes. The direct and indirect impacts of the taxes would unnecessarily divert manufacturers’ resources away from investment in people, plants and equipment; diminish potential job creation; and weaken our country’s global economic position.

  6. Valerie Lee of EI permalink
    July 29, 2010

    Absolutely. A fund is needed to address orphan shares and also to ensure that there is a credible deterrent to parties who would like to ignore their legal responsibilities and push the costs of response on to other parties which are good corporate citizens and recognize the importance of environmental quality for next generations and for their companies.

  7. Yes of Pawnee Nation Dept. of Environmental Conservation and Safety permalink
    July 29, 2010

    YES. As long as we are producing raw crude we will have the associated pollution issues. Its not much more than an insurance bond for the generator. Taxing the source is much better than taxing the citizen.

  8. Ron Smedley of permalink
    July 29, 2010

    It would be good to have a dedicated source of funding to clean up old industrial properties that have been contaminated. However, there should be a link between existing companies and any contamination that they or their predecessors actually caused. Good corporate and environmentally responsible companies should not be taxed to pay for something that they had nothing to do with.
    I do think that just re-instating a tax without a complete overhaul of CERCLA and RCRA is not a good idea. In our modern age of production, given new manufacturing techniques, much lower use of chemicals, and lower levels of pollutants, we need to re-evaluate how we want to regulate companies and hold them to high environmental standards while not penalizing them or future businesses for past practices.

  9. peter strauss of pm strauss&associates permalink
    July 29, 2010

    Yes, yes. There was no good reason to do away with the tax when it expired. It could perhaps be a little more targeted to industries that are the major sources of pollution at supetfund sites. If I remember correctly, the tax was on a broad range of petro-chemical manufacturers. I am not sure whether it included basic petoleum extraction and refining; nor do I think it included heavy metal extraction and processing, or radioactive materials processing.

    So what I am proposing is that the tax be refined to incorporate these industries and not place the burden on one group. I would start with an analysis of existing NPL sites to determine the proportion of tax burden should be allocated to each.

  10. Walter Avramenko of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment permalink
    July 29, 2010

    Yes, but only on condition that EPA commit to implementing process improvements to ensure money collected and used on sites is done so in an efficient and effective manner. This includes:
    * Commit to moving away from a process driven cleanup program
    * Commit to looking for every opportunity to be flexible in appraoch
    * Commit to hire or assign only those project managers that are experienced and techbnically qualified to run the project, not oversee contractors who actually do the work for them (no middlemen)
    * Commit to ensuring that the appropriate level of staffing are assigned to projects and that each member is contributing in a meaningful way (these taxes should not be used to keep federal staff employed)
    * Commit to ensuring that EPA’s project management/oversight is adding value to the work of others, not just providing a stamp of approval
    * Commit to reviewing documents in a timely manner, perhaps even agreeing to do so within a specified deadline
    * Commit to moving the cleanup forward in a timely fashion and shave years off the traditional process
    * Commit to a collaborative project management style, not command and control
    * Commit to making decisions that don’t always necessitate collecting data that yields 100% certainty, relying on professional judgement to fill in data gaps
    * Commit to making decisions that may require sticking one’s neck out there, and not do things of questionable value to CYA
    * Commit to not turning activities into research projects with large sums of money spent finding an answer that should be inutuitive to an experienced individual
    * Commit to not protecting to the Nth degree, for improbable scenarios (some earthworms will have to die)
    * Collect data showing the effectiveness of these improvements and report them to Confgress and the public annually
    * Commit to doing all of the above and more in writing, a plan wtritten for each site where this new money will be spent

    You get the picture. My experience is that there is considerable room for improvement within EPA. Without these commitments, new taxes will be spent inefficiently and the problems will persist. I would hope that any effort to tax companies in these economically challanging times will fail if EPA is unwilling to give something in return.

  11. Anon of permalink
    July 29, 2010

    NO. The Superfund tax and program has been a monumental waste of taxpayer money. The primary beneficiaries have been lawyers – not the environment or the public.
    The original design of CERCLA was (a) a temporary tax to generate money from then-operating businesses to pay for cleanup of sites where wastes had been disposed of by similar businesses in earlier eras, and (b) a cradle-to-grave system of tracking haz wastes generated after enactment of the law to make sure that no additional improper storage/disposal sites were created.
    Had it been prudently and properly implemented, all or most of the “historic sites” would have been cleaned up by now, and there would be no “new superfund sites” being created. Thus, there would be no need for this discussion about reinstating the tax.
    Further, because of the success of American ingenuity in reducing , reusing and recycling hazardous wastes, there is substantially less haz waste being generated today than 30 years ago. Regulators should cheer – and they should need less money/tax to regulate the shrinking number of generators, transporters and TSDs. Had the Superfund program succeeded in cleaning up the “historic problems,” and had the regulatory “cradle-to-grave” system worked, EPA’s and states’ haz waste programs could function effectively with fewer people and money.
    Obviously, the system hasn’t worked. There are undoubtedly many reasons, but one factor (I believe) is that regulators spend too much of their time and resources micro-managing waste generators, transporters and treatment/disposal facilities that work hard to follow the rules, and spend too little time doing the difficult work of finding and taking effective actions to stop/prosecute those few bad actors who avoid or ignore the haz waste rules. Consequently, new superfund sites are still being “created”…
    Rather than perpetuate a system that hasn’t worked as intended, let’s rethink/redesign the system.

  12. Debra Hall of Hopewell Junction Citizens for Clean Water permalink
    July 30, 2010

    Hopewell Precision contaminated my neighborhood. In the last 7 plus years they have not paid one penny towards cleanup although they are still in business. They were allowed by NYS law to lower their tax assessment by almost 80% because their property is contaminated. It does not matter that they caused the contamination. So not only did they benefit from dumping TCE and TCA and whatever else they used, yes, they dumped solely for the reason of greed, but they are earning thousands of dollars in taxes every year because of this contamination.

    Should there be a superfund tax? YES!!!!! It never should have expired. There will be no other way to make companies responsible.

  13. Michael Steinberg of Superfund Settlements Project permalink
    July 30, 2010

    The two reasons given for reimposing the Superfund taxes are (1) increasing the pace of Superfund cleanups and (2) maintaining the “polluter pays” principle. Neither point is persuasive.

    1. Pace of Cleanups.

    The first point is subject to widespread confusion. Congress sets the level of EPA’s Superfund spending for each fiscal year through the appropriations process. That annual appropriation is what determines the level of EPA activity. The Superfund taxes, on the other hand, do not affect EPA’s budget at all.

    Reasonable people can differ over whether increasing EPA’s Superfund appropriation would produce faster cleanups. But collecting more tax revenue would do nothing of the sort.

    2. “Polluter Pays.”

    The second point is mistaken, because Superfund is already overwhelmingly a “polluter pays” program. At most NPL sites, responsible parties (private companies, DOD, DOE, municipalities, etc.) pay nearly all of the costs themselves. Even at the relatively few sites where EPA pays up front, the Department of Justice typically recovers those costs from any viable responsible parties.

    It is usually at “orphan” sites, where no responsible parties exist, that EPA performs cleanups using general revenues. These
    “orphan” sites were obviously not contaminated by the companies that would pay the Superfund taxes. So reimposing the taxes to pay for “orphan” sites wouldn’t be making the polluter pay at all. It would be making American industry pay for someone else’s mistakes.

  14. Kris Anderson of ---n/a permalink
    August 1, 2010

    Short answer- “YES”.

    Taxes are a method of funding necessary govenment programs, like keeping our environment clean and safe. These taxes also tie the external costs of pollution to
    their sources- the polluters who are making huge, HUGE profits at the expense of American taxpayers, who must otherwise pay these costs.

    Taxes are also a policy tool. They are a way to signal the economy that we need a change – for future generations, for ourselves today as well. Fossil fuel companies are making record profits- despite a press blitz about BP’s one quarter loss. Their profits ate possible because they receive huge tax BREAKS from the government and also other subsidies ( VERY favorable lease rates on offshore drilling rights, etc.) And, they are a mature industry- Fossil fuels can NOT be the answer to our future power needs. So, we need to move the economy away from encouraging fossil fuels toward power generaltion / fuel options that will be the clean alternatives of our future, industries that will be the jobs of our future- our children’s future.

    So, these taxes assign costs to the source of the expenses, compensate taxpayers for the externalities from fossil fuel production and serve as an economic signal to the economy, moving the country toward competitive market position in future growth areas globally.

    These are good taxes to re-instate! As long as there is pollution generated by the profit- making activities of an energy company or chemical company, or any related entity, these taxes should be kept in place-

    Tax polluters for the cleanup costs of their activities, not taxpayers!

  15. K Anderson of --- permalink
    August 1, 2010

    But, the taxes would serve to move us away from an industry that is receiving HUGE taxpayer subsidies at present, for products that are clearly bad for our health, bad for and, our environment.

    Most importantly, by providing taxpayer incentives for this kind of mature industry, we are giving up our once dominant technological position in alternative energy areas to foreign companies. We should be taxing – or removing present GENEROUS taxpayer subsidies received by many polluting industries. We should, rationally, in taxpayer interests, be providing help to innovative companies which will be the engines for our future growth, foture jobs, where future global markets will be strong.

    We should be- it is in taxpayer interests to subsidize SMALL BUSINESSES- they are the innovators. Small business generate the majority of JOBS.

    TAX POLLUTERS; Incentivize small business growth on the FUTURE of our economy! That’s rational tax policy; tax policy that is good for American taxpayers!

  16. Mike DeSpain of Mechoopda Maidu Indians permalink
    August 4, 2010

    I think the taxes need to be imposed! But at the sane time, we need to have a better and more through compliance agency to protect the
    environment. Fines should be very high and they should be required to
    mitigate the damage.

  17. Dr. J. Winston Porter of Waste Policy Center permalink
    August 4, 2010


    Dr. J. Winston Porter of the Waste Policy Center Says

    The “Superfund Taxes” should not be reimposed by Congress and the Administration for two primary reasons: (1) it is an extremely unfair tax, and (2) it would not expedite Superfund cleanups. Such taxes would also pervert the “polluter pays” principle , particularly as it relates to “orphan” sites.

    These Taxes would be paid mostly by chemical and petroleum firms , although a large majority of Superfund sites were caused by other industries and even governmental units.
    For example, Superfund sites have been caused by automobile manufacturing, electronics firms, recyclers of used oil and batteries, mining operations, military and energy facilities, municipal wastes management, individuals, and many others.

    Thus, if the Taxes are restored a new principle would be declared: “some polluters must pay twice.” They would pay for their own sites, and then for orphan sites for which they has almost no involvement.

    As a former EPA assistant administrator for Superfund and RCRA, I believe EPA has the necessary tools and funding to deal with Superfund sites. Indeed, about two-thirds of the sites have been completed. But what is still needed are more timely and cost-effective cleanups.

    Before further consideration of new taxes it is important to look carefully at two key factors: (1) the projected costs and time needed to deal with all remaining orphan sites, and (2) other management approaches to expedite all site completions, thus saving both time and money. Recommendations for improved approaches follow.

    First, consideration should be given to designation of a senior member of the assistant administrator’s office to oversee and promote site completions. While the EPA regions have the primary responsibility for site management, I believe that Superfund headquarters management should be much more involved in ensuring timely and cost-effective cleanups.

    Second, completion dates should be set for all current study and cleanup work. A “culture of completion” should replace the current “culture of deliverables.” Program reports and other paperwork should be streamlined.

    Third, the focus of the Superfund program should increasingly be on the completion of existing sites. The various Superfund administrative and support services should be reduced as sites are completed in order to provide more funding for direct site completion work.

    Fourth, some Superfund sites have been completed in a timely and cost effective manner. It is suggested that a sampling of such sites be identified and used to inform the timely completion of other sites.

    In summary, what is needed in EPA is more focus on timely site completions (with much more senior management attention), as well as increased use of EPA’s annual $1.2 billion appropriation to support site completions, as opposed to the current “siphoning off” of many dollars for administrative and “process” activities.

  18. Chris of MO DNR permalink
    August 4, 2010

    Several posters here seem to have overlooked this little sentence:

    “Since those taxes expired at the beginning of 1996, Superfund has been largely financed from General Revenue transfers to the Superfund Trust Fund.”

    Where do you think General Revenue comes from? The ‘new hidden tax that everyone will pay for’ is actually a tax cut for the individual taxpayer and a transfer of those costs to industry.

  19. Chris of MO DNR permalink
    August 4, 2010

    “So reimposing the taxes to pay for “orphan” sites wouldn’t be making the polluter pay at all. It would be making American industry pay for someone else’s mistakes.”

    Perhaps, but I would make two points:

    First, industry today stands on the shoulders of industry of yesterday. Maybe the company went out of business and can’t be traced to a viable company today, but is a lineage in the wider sense.

    Second, maybe the tax would make up for some of the sites cleaned up using public funds and tax credits under Brownfields for which viable PRB’s *do* exist but are not pursued. In some cases the pollution source is very old and the PRP, though still existing, hasn’t been there for a long time. With others, they may have just recently sold or given the property away with full knowledge by all parties that the recipient would receive public benefits to do the cleanup. This is no more fair to the taxpayer than the Superfund tax is to innocent companies.

  20. John Schweizer of T3W Business Solutions, Inc. permalink
    August 4, 2010

    I am a Professional Engineer working as a Technical Advisor to the West Oakland community at the AMCO Chemical Superfund Site. This is a very toxic site that has a significant impact on the mixed residential/commercial neighborhood where it is located. It was created by a small business that blended solvents for the Army during the Vietnam Era, went out of business in the mid-1980s, and left no successor companies to pay for the cleanup. I am well aware of the pressing need to fund the cleanup of such “orphan” sites to protect the public. I appreciate the dramatic increase in the attention and funding that this major NPL site has received since the advent of the current administration. It is in the spirit of wanting to see the progress in the Superfund program to continue, as exemplified by the events over the last 20 months at the AMCO site.

    The proposed tax reinstatement is not sustainable for the long term because those that would pay the tax receive no benefit. Rather, the proposed tax is essentially an unfair punitive tax on manufacturers and importers that have no control over the use of their products in the market place, and therefore have no control over their tax liability. Such a tax is not sustainable because it is likely to be repealed by the next administration that has a “pro-business” agenda. As the commenter from the NMA rightly points out, the viable large businesses that manufacture and import chemical products already are legally required to pay for the cleanup of their polluted manufacturing sites, former manufacturing sites, and those of the companies that they have acquired. Because of joint and several liability, which means if a company is the only viable responsible party left in a group of polluters that have created a Superfund site, the viable company must pay for the entire cleanup. This is a very good system that leaves the liability for cleanup largely in the hands of those responsible for the pollution, incentivizes viable businesses to minimize pollution and therefore cost by instituting proper management of hazardous materials, incentivizes businesses to manage their hazardous wastes responsibly, and does not penalize the responsible for the actions of the irresponsible.

    Instead of reinstating the old tax structure, I advocate funding from additional sources that benefit from the cleanup of these sites. The current funding, transfers from the General Revenue fund, is a good source because the public at large benefits from the cleanup of these otherwise unfunded sites. The problem is the shifting tides in the sea of politics that change the will of congress, which make this source unreliable. In my view, additional funding is needed to ensure that orphan sites are mitigated in proportion to the risks they pose to public health. I have the following suggestions:
    o Use rights of eminent domain to acquire orphan sites at the fair market value for degraded properties, then sell the properties after cleanup, with revenues from the sale going into the Superfund, or retain the remediated properties as public land for benefit to the public.
    o For property that has not been acquired from the owner under rights of eminent domain, require a transfer tax be paid that is equal to the difference in present value between what an innocent owner paid for the property and its sale value. Innocent owners should not benefit financially from increases in the value of their property resulting from publicly funded cleanups. The public should be the ones to benefit.
    o Institute a federal tax similar to the federal gasoline tax, which is used to finance federal roads and bridges, on solvents and other hazardous materials that are commonly found at Superfund sites. The tax would be paid at the final point of sale, whether it is an industrial or individual consumer, exactly the way gasoline is taxed. Money from this tax would go to the Superfund. In this way the tax would be spread as widely as possible among those who have the most control over the final disposition of these hazardous materials, those who create the market for these materials, and/or those who receive the most benefit from the use of public money to clean up orphan sites. Such a tax would also incentivize the reduction of use of these hazardous materials and the search for and use of non-toxic alternatives.
    o Increase the federal fuel taxes and use the increase to fund Superfund cleanups. The increase could be quite small in relation to seasonal and market increases imposed by the oil companies, and even though small, could have a major impact on funds available for cleanup. This would further incentivize fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas reductions while spreading the cost of orphan site cleanups as widely as possible among industry and the general public.
    o Use a greater percentage of federal stimulus money for the cleanup of orphan sites where labor cost is more significant, and costs that take money out of circulation, such as off-site disposal costs, are low. Sites that use in-situ treatment methods for cleanup can be thought of as a vehicle for job creation, especially among disadvantaged communities where many of these sites are located. The benefits of job creation and the income tax revenues that result should be factored into the decision making process for remedies.
    These are thoughts that come immediately to mind when considering how to fund orphan site cleanup in a more fair and equitable way than the proposed tax reinstatement. It is my belief that connecting public taxation to public benefit as closely as possible has a greater potential for consensus building and sustaining the long haul that is going to be required to clean up polluted sites. Not only is funding needed for orphan sites, but there will be future major demands on public resources for other needs, such as the cleanup of toxic levels of lead in urban areas. In my view, it is worth the effort to find a permanent solution to funding the cleanup of toxic sites where there is no Principal Responsible Party (PRP) to fund the cleanup.

  21. Melissa Wittstruck of permalink
    August 4, 2010

    Yes, the taxes and fines need to be imposed in order to !) mininize and mitigate damages 2) pay for preventive protection, and 3) encourage impact avoidance. Fines need to be high enough that they are an effective deterrent and are realistic regarding the costs of mitigation and losses.Compliance needs to be better coordinated among agencies, environmental standards must be consistent, applied, and enforced. AND, passing on the costs of polluting businesses/products to consumers must be limited. Negligent behavior to maximize profits is the not attributable to the consumer.

  22. Ed Hopkins of Sierra Club permalink
    August 10, 2010

    It is very misleading to suggest, as NAM does, that “…the federal levels for clean-up spending have remained relatively constant..” That’s roughly accurate only considering non-inflation adjusted (nominal) dollars. According to the May, 2010, Government Accountability Report (“EPA’s Estimated Costs to Remediate Existing Sites Exceed Current Funding Levels, and More Sites are Expected to be Added to the National Priorities List,” GAO-10-380), “Since fiscal year 1998, however, congressional appropriations have generally declined when adjusted for inflation.” (p. 6) Inflation-adjusted appropriations decreased steadily following the sunset of the polluter-pays funding mechanism. When adjusted for inflation, Superfund appropriations averaged about $1.7 billion from 1992 to 2000 and only $1.3 from 2001 to 2004. That’s a decrease of about 25%.

  23. Ed Hopkins of Sierra Club permalink
    August 10, 2010

    Sierra Club supports reinstating the Superfund taxes. A dedicated funding source will enable Congress to increase clean-up appropriations. Additional funding is badly needed, particularly at the 75 NPL sites (as of the end of FY 2009) where EPA identified unacceptable levels of human exposure to contaminants. Thirty years after Superfund’s enactment, people continue to live in communities where their health is threatened by Superfund sites. A dedicated source of funding could result in a faster cleanup of these sites. Dedicated funding is particularly important as concern grows over the federal budget

  24. John Schweizer of T3W Business Solutions, Inc. permalink
    August 12, 2010

    Melissa Wittstruck makes a good point that “Negligent behavior to maximize profits is not attributable to the consumer.” I don’t see how anyone can argue with this.
    Where neglegent behavior has been the cause of a Superfund Site that is not funded by the private sector, and must be funded by the public if it is to be cleaned up, it is because all those responsible for the negligence are no longer in business, have no successors, and cannot be held accountable under the law.
    This is true even if the behavior was not negligent, but simply misinformed. A case in point is the publicly funded Superfund Site that I am working on in Oakland, California. The solvent blender that used to operate the site, and is now out of business with no successor companies to pay for the cleanup, layed down a concrete pad about six feet thick under the site. The only reason I can see for why they would have layed down such a thick pad of concrete is that they thought it would prevent the solvents from reaching the soil and groundwater under the site. They were wrong.
    Another thought I have on how to fund the cleanup of these orphan sites arises from a source of funding that used to be significant. Taxes on disposal (landfilling) of hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act used to be a major source of funding for the cleanup of un-funded contaminated sites. This, along with the liability for the ultimate cleanup of these hazardous waste landfill sites by the companies that operate them, caused hazardous waste disposal prices to rise dramatically, the volume of hazardous waste sent to landfills to drop, industrial recycling to increase, and tax revenues from this source to decline. In my view, this is a very good thing.
    The decline in the landfilling of hazardous waste suggests that taxes on sanitary landfills might be a source of revenue for the Superfund with additional benefits to the public. Not only would an increase in such taxes help alleviate the desperate need for funding in the Superfund program, it would further promote the recycling of household wastes instead of putting them in landfills.

  25. Diane Shea of permalink
    August 13, 2010

    The Superfund tax should be reinstated only if it is “firewalled”, that is, specifically dedicated to Superfund cleanups only and not used to help offset the federal deficit or pay for any other EPA programs or expenses. A firewall ensures that all the money collected each year in the Fund is actually appropriated for its specific purpose. There are too many examples of special-purpose federal trust funds that are financed with private sector taxes or fees, and then the money goes for some other purpose, or is never spent at all.

  26. Susan Bodine of permalink
    August 19, 2010

    It is important to use accurate information. Your appropriations data probably came from GAO-04-787R. However, the appropriations data presented in Enclosure 1 of that report was misleading because before 2001 ATSDR and NIEHS appropriations were included as part of the Superfund appropriation and before 2002 the Brownfields appropriation was included as part of the Superfund appropriation. To provide an “apples to apples” comparison, GAO did a follow-up report (GAO-05-746R) which includes the appropriations for these programs rather than dropping them from the analysis in 2001 and 2002 respectively. That report shows that appropriations for EPA’s Superfund program, ATSDR, NIEHS, and Brownfields collectively have gone up and down. when shown in inflation adjusted dollars.

  27. Ed Hopkins of Sierra Club permalink
    August 26, 2010

    Appropriations for all of these programs have fluctuated from year to year, of course. The point remains, though, that inflation-adjusted appropriations for the Superfund program have been consistently lower since the original funding mechanism sunset at the end of 1995. In the GAO report you cite, the appropriations for FY 1993 and FY 1994 were $1,467 million and $1,379 million. Since the trust fund sunset, the appropriations have ranged from a low of $1,175 million in FY 2002 to a high of $1,279 in FY 1998.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS