WASHINGTON – Polluters, not taxpayers, would be on the hook to pay the exorbitant cleanup costs for the most contaminated sites in the country if legislation proposed today becomes law.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has introduced the Superfund Reinvestment Act of 2021, which would reinstate fees on corporate polluters to provide the Environmental Protection Agency the resources required to cover the costs of remediating the more than 1,300 Superfund sites in the U.S.
“Contamination from these sites has affected taxpayers enormously and is especially likely to put at risk the health of low-income communities and communities of color who live nearby,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “The costs of cleaning up these sites should fall entirely on the shoulders of the polluters responsible for dumping toxic waste in the first place.”
“We applaud Rep. Blumenauer for his leadership on this important issue that has been neglected by our elected leaders in Washington for more than two decades,” said Cook. “It is way past time those responsible for contaminating these communities should be required to pay to have them cleaned up.”
The so-called “polluter pays” tax on the petrochemical industry, as well as other industries responsible for the contaminated sites, expired in 1995. Congress has not re-authorized it, and since then, the fund has been depleted, pushing the burden of paying to clean up more than 1,300 EPA-certified Superfund sites onto taxpayers.
Many of the Superfund sites are contaminated with a number of highly toxic chemicals, including benzene, arsenic, PCBs, PFAS and mercury.
According to the EPA, an estimated 73 million people, or 22 percent of the population, live within three miles of one of the 1,327 EPA-certified Superfund sites. More than one-fourth of Black families and almost 30 percent of Hispanic families live near a toxic Superfund site, including more than one-fifth of all U.S. children under the age of 5.
The outlook for passage of the Blumenauer legislation is far brighter today than in previous years, with Democrats controlling both the House and Senate. The Biden administration has also called on Congress to reinstate the polluter fee.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.