June 24, 2010

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson


According to a General Accountability Office report issued June 22, 2010, EPA’s estimated costs to remediate existing Superfund sites exceed current funding levels. Moreover, given that EPA anticipates adding about 20 to 25 sites each year to the Superfund’s National Priorities List, funding shortfalls may be even more significant. In a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, EPA asked Congress to reinstate a series of taxes that had financed the Superfund Trust Fund but which expired in 1995. The Superfund Trust Fund was used to cleanup sites for which no responsible party could be identified or in cases where the party was insolvent.


These taxes on oil and chemical producers and importers were part of the original Superfund law but such funds were exhausted in 2003. Since that time, EPA’s funding for the cleanup of orphan sites has come from general revenues.


Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has introduced a bill, the Polluter Pays Restoration Act (S. 3164), that would reinstate these taxes. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) believes the Obama administration is taking advantage of the political climate arising from the BP oil spill to attempt to reimpose these taxes on oil and gas companies. According to Sen. Lautenberg, however, it's all about the cleanup statistics. EPA cleaned up an average of 80 sites a year while funding existed. Last year, EPA only remediated 19 sites.


More information is available in the GAO report titled 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. Click here for GAO report.