WASHINGTON - September 30 - The Sierra Club today marked the one-year anniversary of the bankruptcy of the Superfund trust fund and highlighted the records of George W. Bush and John Kerry on toxic waste cleanup. The federal Superfund toxic waste program ran out of polluter-contributed funds exactly a year ago, leaving taxpayers with the entire bill.
"The federal Superfund toxic waste cleanup program has, until recently, been a formidable tool for helping clean up America's most dangerous toxic sites. It's time to get the program back on track," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director.
"George W. Bush has refused to support the 'polluter pays' principle, while John Kerry has prioritized polluter accountability. The Superfund program is at a crossroads, and where the presidential candidates stand on the issue is crucial to protecting our communities and our families."
In 1995, Congress failed to renew the taxes which funded the trust fund, shifting the burden of financing cleanups to taxpayers and away from polluters. The current administration is the first since the Superfund program began not to support the polluter pays principle. On September 30, 2003, the trust fund went bankrupt of polluter pays dollars, meaning that taxpayers are now shouldering the entire cost of the program. With the trust fund dry, taxpayers' bills have risen dramatically: from $300 million in 1995 to more than a billion dollars this year -- a jump of more than 300 percent.
George W. Bush has supported programs where taxpayers, not polluters, would be forced to pay to clean up abandoned toxic waste sites. John Kerry co-sponsored legislation that would remove the burden from taxpayers and reinstate taxes that would hold polluting companies responsible for paying to clean up their own messes.
"The Superfund trust fund established a vital, stable source of funding without financially burdening ordinary taxpayers," said Pope. "Without polluter-contributed funds, how will the more than 1,200 remaining Superfund toxic waste sites get cleaned up, and who will really be paying?"
Taxpayers are also getting less bang for their buck, as Superfund cleanups have slowed along with the drop in funding. In the late 1990's, EPA cleaned up an average of 87 sites a year. In 2003, just 40 cleanups were completed. And the number of sites that aren't being funded or that are getting substantially less funding than what they need has increased every year since 2001. This year, an estimated 46 sites in 27 states will not be funded or will be inadequately funded, according to figures gathered and released by Representative John Dingell (D-MI).
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