June 22nd, 2010
11:00 AM ET
By David S. Martin
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson is asking Congress to reinstate a tax on oil, gas and chemical companies to help fund cleanup costs at some of America’s most polluted places.
The so-called “polluters pay” provision funds cleanup at Superfund sites where those responsible for the pollution either can’t be found, don’t have the money or have gone out of business.
Mathy Stanislaus, who runs the Superfund program, told CNN the tax is levied on companies that produce or sell substances commonly found at Superfund sites.
"It’s critically important,” Stanislaus said. “Between the taxpayers and those industries that produce substances that contaminate these sites, the administration believes those parties [industries] should pay for these orphan sites.”
The Superfund program is charged with cleaning up the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites – contaminated areas that often threaten the health of nearby residents.
The "polluters pay" tax expired at the end of 1995, leaving taxpayers with a more than $1 billion bill annually to clean up so-called orphan hazardous waste sites.
The American Petroleum Institute and American Chemistry Council, trade groups, say the tax is unfair because the government is asking industries to pay to clean up environmental problems they didn’t cause. They add that tax hurts their ability to compete in a global marketplace.
In her letter Monday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Jackson asked Congress to reinstate the tax for 10 years, beginning January 1, 2011. The levy covers crude oil, imported petroleum products, hazardous chemicals and imported substances made using hazardous chemicals.
“The Speaker strongly supports the concept that polluters should pay for cleanup. We'll be reviewing the Administration's proposal in the days and weeks ahead,” Pelosi’s press secretary Drew Hammill said in an e-mail.
There are 1,279 active Superfund sites. Of those, 606 are so-called orphan sites currently being cleaned up at taxpayer expense, according to the EPA.
Read more about toxic chemicals in Dr. Sanjay Gupta's investigation, "Toxic America."
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