The Polluter Pays … Less and Less
The Superfund toxic waste cleanup program was founded under the slogan “the polluter pays” and got its name from the vast financial reserves in the account. Now both the slogan and the name are misleading; the Bush administration has announced that it will not reinstate corporate taxes to boost the dwindling funds in the account, which means the majority of the cost of cleanup will be picked up by taxpaying citizens. Superfund is used to clean up “orphan sites” — those where the polluter cannot be identified or cannot pay, as well as for emergency cleanups. In 1995, under industry pressure, Congress let the taxes that fund the Fund expire; the Superfund coffer has since declined from a high of $3.8 billion in 1996 to a projected $28 million next year. Over roughly the same period, taxpayer funding of Superfund cleanups increased from $250 million (about 21 percent of the overall fund) in ’94 to a projected $700 million next year (more than 50 percent of the fund).