WASHINGTON - April 15 - Regular taxpayers will pay 315 percent more in 2004 to clean up toxic waste sites than in 1995, the year Superfunds polluter pays fees expired. As average taxpayers file returns this April 15th, corporate polluters nationwide continue to enjoy a $4 million-a-day tax holiday.
Every April 15th, American families pay their taxes, but corporate polluters are let off the hook for toxic waste site cleanups, said Julie Wolk, Environmental Health Advocate for U.S. PIRG. By opposing the reinstatement of Superfunds polluter pays fees, the Bush administration is charging regular taxpayers, instead of polluting industries, for toxic cleanups, she said.
Since Congress allowed Superfunds polluter pays fees to expire in 1995 and the trust fund is now essentially bankrupt, the cost to American taxpayers has increased from $300 million to $1.27 billion, a 315 percent increase. This comes at a time when revenues from corporate taxes nationwide fell from $207 billion in 2000 to $132 billion in 2003, a decrease of 36 percent (Center for Budget Policy and Priorities). The Bush administration is the first administration that has not collected or supported reinstating the fees in the programs 23 year history, and the Senate recently rejected an amendment to reinstate the fees by a narrow margin.
Without the polluter pays fees, toxic waste cleanup competes with every other government program for scarce taxpayer money said Wolk. Reinstating the fees would not only shift the burden of paying for toxic cleanups back on to polluting industries, but would also provide a dedicated funding source for the cash-strapped program, she continued.
Last year, the Bush administration cleaned up only 40 Superfund toxic waste sites compared to an average of 87 sites per year in the middle and late 1990s. The EPA Inspector General recently reported a $175 million funding shortfall for fiscal year 2003, and a recent General Accounting Office letter showed a 35 percent decrease in funding for the program since 1993.
Communities across the country are at risk of chemical exposure and disease, and now theyre being charged with the cleanup costs as well, said Wolk. Congress should reinstate Superfunds polluter pays fees, re-fund the program, and demand that the Bush administration start cleaning up more toxic waste sites, she concluded.