Taxpayers Pay To Clean Up After Polluters At Nation’s Toxic Waste Sites

Environment Colorado

DENVER—American taxpayers will pay more than $1.2 billion to clean up after polluters at Superfund toxic waste sites across the country in 2006, according to a new analysis released today by Environment Colorado.

This marks the 11th year that taxpayers will pay to protect the health of the one in four Americans living within four miles of a Superfund site instead of polluters, as the program intended.

Superfund’s polluter fees once collected money from polluters to clean toxic waste sites. New data complied by Environment Colorado reveals that, since these fees expired in 1995, the cost to taxpayers to clean up after polluters at toxic waste sites has increased by 427percent.

“On April 17th Americans will pay our taxes, but polluters will be once again excused from paying theirs,” said Matthew Garrington, Field Organizer for Environment Colorado. “By refusing to reinstate the polluter fees, the federal government has opted to charge regular taxpayers, instead of polluters, for the costs of toxic waste cleanups,” said Garrington.

Environment Colorado’s data reveals that Colorado taxpayers will pay $22,913,252 in 2006 to clean up after polluters. Despite this heavy reliance on taxpayer funding, without the income provided by the polluter pays fees, the Superfund program does not receive enough money to adequately protect public health from toxic waste sites.

While Superfund cleanup needs grow, program financing remains stagnant, creating funding shortfalls that delay critical toxic cleanups and jeopardize public health. In 2005, the EPA cleaned only 40 sites, a significant departure from the average of 77 cleaned sites each year between 1992 and 2000. If funding shortfalls persist, the number of cleaned toxic sites will continue to drop. Reinstating the polluter fees will provide a dedicated source of money and shift the costs of toxic cleanups back to polluters.

“At a time of record budget deficits, the exclusive use of scarce taxpayer dollars to pay a cost that should be borne by polluters is fiscally reckless,” said Garrington. “Congress and the Bush Administration’s refusal to shift cleanup costs back to polluting industries is a reprehensible policy and amounts to nothing more than polluter welfare.”