Superfund is the federal government's program that investigates and cleans up most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the United States. If reinstated, the so-called "polluter tax" would provide a stable, dedicated source of funding for the program and pick up the pace of the cleanup, the EPA said in a release.
The tax also would ensure entities benefiting from the manufacture or sale of polluting substances at hazardous waste sites pay for their cleanup when the responsible parties can't be identified, not the taxpayers, the agency said.
"Since the beginning of this administration we have made it clear that we support the reinstatement of the polluter pays system for the Superfund program," said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. "Our taxes should be paying for teachers, police officers and infrastructure that is essential for sustainable growth -- not footing the bill for polluters."
In the interim, the EPA is working to better manage the Superfund program to increase cleanups and "enhance transparency, accountability and community input in agency decision-making," Stanislaus said.
The Superfund taxes expired Dec. 31, 1995, and since cleanup has been funded largely through general revenue transfers to the Superfund Trust Fund, thus burdening the taxpayer with the costs of cleaning up abandoned hazardous waste sites.
The administration is proposing reinstatement of the taxes as they were on crude oil, imported petroleum products, hazardous chemicals and imported substances that use hazardous chemicals as a feedstock, and on corporate modified alternative minimum taxable income. The proposal also calls for the excise tax and corporate environmental taxes to be reinstated for a 10-year period beginning in January 2011.
Since the fund ran out of money at the end of fiscal year 2003, the annual appropriation of public funds has slowed the cleanup of the orphaned sites, which account for 606 of the 1,279 sites across the nation. The program completed 19 sites last year, compared with 89 in 1999, when the fund was flush, the EPA said.