A new study by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice sheds light on the growing connections between global climate change, corporate bankruptcies, and the crisis of the Federal Superfund toxic waste cleanup program. Superfund: In the Eye of the Storm reveals new threats from climate change related hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding are damaging Superfund toxic waste sites and driving up costs, and the program’s solvency threatens to buckle as more bankrupt companies try to unload their cleanup costs on Superfund.
CHEJ and 40 groups in 23 states are delivering letters and pizzas to policymakers in support of President Obama and Congress’s recent actions to replenish Superfund by restoring polluter pays fees. One of the fees, the Corporate Environmental Income Tax paid by companies with $2 million or more in profits, was only $12 on every $10,000 in profits — the price of a large, cheese pizza.
The report found extreme weather conditions have impacted Superfund sites, including Hurricanes Ike in 2008, Katrina, and Rita in 2005. From 2004 through 2008 alone, 56 Superfund sites were impacted by hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region.
Growing corporate bankruptcies further place Superfund at the eye of the economic storm as polluting companies, like ASARCO, are allowed to try and avoid the costs of remediating up to 94 sites by declaring bankruptcy, although a new court decision requires EPA to close this loophole. Superfund fees lapsed in 1995, bankrupting the trust fund in 2003, and taxpayers now fund $1.2 billion per year.
“There is only one solution — Congress must reinstate the polluter pays fees. The country cannot afford to continue bailing out polluters while the list of unfunded sites grows. The core principle of the Superfund program is that polluters, not taxpayers, should pay to clean up toxic sites,” says CHEJ Executive Director Lois Gibbs.
For a copy of the report, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the word “Superfund” in the subject line of your e-mail.