Holding Polluters Accountable
While the environment is under attack at the federal level by the new Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (who doesn’t believe in climate change), communities across the country continue to deal with polluted areas that are full of a toxic stew. In the Pacific Northwest, we have contaminated sites close to home, including old mines, former military sites, and waterways like Seattle’s Duwamish River and Portland’s own Willamette River.
The new administration is proposing steep budget cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency, the federal agency in charge of cleaning up such sites. This move jeopardizes important programs that protect our air and water quality, as well as vulnerable communities. Cuts are also going to impact our ability to clean up some of the most contaminated sites in our communities at a time when we should be investing more, not less, in our environmental legacy. In the face of this new reality, I am reintroducing the Superfund Reinvestment Act to help fund the Superfund program.
The federal Superfund program was created by Congress in 1980 to help clean up sites like the Willamette and Duwamish. A part of this program, the Superfund Trust Fund, served as a backstop to ensure that cleanup occurred in areas where the polluter was unknown, so called “orphan” sites.
Originally financed through taxes on chemicals, petroleum, and corporate income, the Fund ensured that those industries responsible for pollution pay for the remediation. These taxes expired in 1995 and were not reauthorized, depleting the funding source for cleanups and ensuring that, instead of industry, taxpayers are stuck with the bill when the polluters cannot be identified or have no assets.
We need to hold polluters accountable. In previous Congresses, I’ve introduced the Superfund Reinvestment Act. This bill would reinstate taxes on the petrochemical industry to fund the cleanup of hazardous waste sites across the country. It would make sure that polluters, not taxpayers, are paying for cleanup of orphan sites. Now more than ever, we need a fully funded Superfund program.
In order to protect American communities from the toxic legacy of polluting industries, Congress should pass the Superfund Reinvestment Act and clean things up for future generations.
Member of Congress