WASHINGTON - March 11 - A measure to shift the burden of Superfund toxic waste cleanups back to polluters was defeated in the Senate tonight, but the measure gained bipartisan support and increases pressure on the Bush administration to put the health and safety of communities before corporate polluters. The amendment to reinstate the polluter pays fees, cosponsored by Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and James Jeffords (I-VT), lost 43-53. The landmark program ran out of polluter-contributed funds last year, and the amendment would have relieved taxpayers of the significant financial burden of cleaning up abandoned toxic waste sites.
The Bush administration has abandoned the landmark principle that corporate polluters should be held responsible for the toxic messes they leave behind. We are deeply disappointed that the Senate today failed to change this irresponsible course, said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director. If the administration embraced this idea, we could more easily afford to protect Americans health and safety.
Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to add 11 sites to the Superfund National Priority List (NPL), but this announcement loses its luster in light of the Senate vote and the Bush administrations failures to support the Superfund program.
The Bush administration should demand that corporate polluters contribute to the Superfund because it is a sound fiscal measure, would enhance revenues and help cut the skyrocketing deficit, said Pope. The Senate failed today to relieve taxpayers of an unnecessary burden. The Bush administration should move forward to put the health and safety of families and communities ahead of corporate polluters.
Already, 1 in 4 Americans, including 10 million children, lives within 4 miles of a toxic waste site that is considered a Superfund cleanup priority. Once a site is listed on the NPL, it takes on average 11 years before the cleanup is complete. Without the polluter-funded trust fund, sites are forced to compete with other Superfund site and the entire program competes with other federal environmental priorities. The rate of completed cleanups has fallen by 50 percent during the Bush administration compared to 1997-2000, and site listings have slowed down as well.
For information on how the Bush administration EPA is misleading the public about the Superfund toxic waste cleanup program, please read the new U.S. PIRG and Sierra Club report at: http://www.sierraclub.org/toxics/factsheets/cleanups.pdf