WASHINGTON - January 8 - An Environmental Protection Agency Inspector General's report released today admits that the Bush Administration failed to adequately fund the clean up of hazardous toxic waste sites in FY2003. The report, a response to inquiries from U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Jim Jeffords and U.S. Representatives John Dingell and Hilda Solis, admits to a $174.9 million shortfall in clean up funding and underscores the Bush Administration's willingness to leave communities at risk from toxic waste at Superfund toxic waste sites around the country instead of holding polluting companies accountable.
America's federal Superfund toxic waste cleanup program ran out of polluter contributed funds on October 1, 2003, leaving taxpayers to shoulder the financial burden and leaving communities across the country at risk. President Bush has refused to push for the renewal of the "polluter-pays tax" that expired in 1995, becoming the first president not to support the principle that polluters should pay to clean up the messes they create since President Reagan signed the Superfund reauthorization into law in 1986. With more than 1,200 toxic waste sites still in need of cleanup and more being listed each year, the ramifications of a dwindling Superfund trust fund to clean up toxic waste places our communities and environment seriously at risk.
"One in four Americans already lives within a short bicycle ride of a superfund site," said Carl Pope, Executive Director of Sierra Club "It's unconscionable for the Bush Administration not to hold polluters responsible for the cleanup of toxic waste. Polluters--not taxpayers--should be footing the bill."
The Inspector General's report states that "when funding is not sufficient, construction at National Priority List (NPL) sites cannot begin; cleanups are performed in less than an optimal manner; and/or activities are stretched over longer periods of time. As a result, total project costs may increase and actions needed to fully address the human health and environmental risk posed by the contaminants are delayed." (p.4 Congressional Request on Funding Needs for non-Federal Superfund Sites) In addition, the IG's report displays a marked contrast from a report released by the EPA last November that touted Superfund "accomplishments."
American taxpayers are projected to pay about $1.1 billion for the Superfund program this year, an increase of about 400 percent since the fee expired in 1995. According to a Congressionally-mandated study concerning the future of the Superfund program, the cost of implementing the program between FY 2000 through FY 2009 ranges from $14 billion to $16.4 billion. Underfunding cleanup of America's toxic waste sites is yet another example of the administration putting corporations over public interest.
"We teach our children that they are responsible for cleaning up the messes that they make; the Bush administration should demand no less of corporate polluters," said Pope.