Polluter tax to clean up Superfund sites kicks in Friday

Media Contacts

DENVER – After decades of taxpayers bearing the cost of cleaning up toxic waste sites, a new tax on companies that produce chemicals will kick in Friday to pay for toxic waste clean up. The so-called “polluter pays” tax will give the EPA’s “Superfund” program, which is responsible for cleaning up the most hazardous waste sites in the country, a major boost and help to free many Coloradans from the threat of deadly toxic waste.

“For too long, polluting companies have shirked their responsibility for cleaning up toxic waste, unfairly shifting the burden onto the Colorado taxpayer,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG executive director. “With climate change-linked natural disasters threatening to sweep toxic waste into our communities, it’s more important than ever to get the federal Superfund program back on its feet cleaning up toxic waste in our communities.” 

Across the country, one in six Americans live within three miles of a toxic Superfund waste site potentially increasing their risk of cancer, heart and respiratory problems and other serious illnesses. Here in Colorado, we have twenty Superfund sites, of which five do not have human exposure under control including sites in Denver, Minturn, Pueblo, Idaho Springs, and San Juan County.  

Congress originally funded the Superfund program largely through taxes on the chemical and petroleum industries. However, when those taxes were allowed to expire in the 1990s, the financial burden shifted from polluting companies to the taxpayer and funding shortfalls caused the program to languish as the rate of cleanups slowed to a trickle. 

“Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law reinstating the ‘polluter pays’ tax on the chemical industry, we have the best opportunity in decades to protect Americans from deadly toxic waste,” said Katz.  

The reinstated polluter pays tax on chemical production is expected to raise approximately $14.45 billion over the next decade to bolster cleanup efforts at Superfund sites.

“All Coloradans deserve clean, safe communities to live in and raise their families. Reinstating the polluter pays tax on chemical companies is a significant step toward making that happen. Now, Congress needs to finish the job by reinstating the polluter pays tax on petroleum companies. By fully funding the Superfund program, we can ensure that the EPA has the resources it needs to quickly and safely clean up the United States’ most hazardous and dangerous toxic waste sites,” said Katz. 

For more information, PIRG released three reports about the Superfund program, the impacts that severe weather events can have on Superfund sites in the paths of hurricanes and what fully funding the program would mean for toxic waste clean up in America.