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WASHINGTON --- Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon is introducing The Superfund Reinvestment Act on Tuesday. The bill would reinstate a long-dormant tax on polluting industries to fund an accelerated cleanup of the country’s most hazardous waste sites.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program is in charge of cleaning up many of the most hazardous waste sites in the country. Polluting industries used to have to pay for cleanup, but after a “Polluters Pay” tax expired in 1995, taxpayers began picking up the tab at sites where the responsible party has disappeared, gone bankrupt or can’t afford the cleanup cost. For the last 20 years, the Superfund program has been struggling with underfunding, leading to slower cleanups that put more people at risk for longer.
According to the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, one in six Americans lives within 3 miles of a proposed or listed Superfund toxic waste site, potentially increasing their risk of cancer, heart and respiratory problems, and other serious illnesses. To make matters worse, severe climate-induced natural disasters such as hurricanes threaten to flood Superfund sites and spread contamination into nearby communities.
In response, Jillian Gordner, U.S. PIRG’s Make Polluters Pay campaign associate, released the following statement:
“For too long, polluting industries have had a tax holiday while Americans suffer from both the health impacts and financial burdens caused by toxic waste sites. If the Superfund Reinvestment Act passes, it would be the most significant step forward in decades in the pursuit of cleaner and safer communities -- something all Americans can agree we need.”
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