Advocates celebrate EPA’s investment in toxic waste cleanup, call for more funding

Media Contacts
Danielle Melgar

Former Food & Agriculture, Advocate, PIRG

Taran Volckhausen

Former Communications Associate, The Public Interest Network

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law reinstated a ‘polluter pays’ tax on chemicals

U.S. PIRG & Environment America

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Friday that it will invest $1 billion to clean up a backlog of 49 previously-unfunded Superfund toxic waste sites. The new funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which reinstated a “polluter pays” fee on chemical companies. Overall, the bipartisan law is expected to raise $3.5 billion to clean up deadly toxic waste sites across the United States.

EPA’s Superfund program was originally funded by a set of polluter-pays taxes on chemicals, petroleum, and corporate income. In 1995, Congress allowed those taxes to expire. EPA has increasingly relied on money from general taxpayer revenue to make up the shortfall. In years following the polluter-pays taxes’ expiration, the rate of EPA cleanups at Superfund sites dropped

Earlier this month, PIRG Education Fund released a report, entitled Funding the Future of Superfund: Addressing decades of slowing toxic waste cleanup, that outlined actions that federal and state governments should take to clean up toxic waste and protect the one-in-six Americans who live near a toxic waste site.

Experts from U.S. PIRG and Environment America issued the following statements in response:

“This investment is welcome news for millions of Americans currently living alongside toxic waste,” said Danielle Melgar, U.S. PIRG’s Toxics Program advocate. “Sadly, however, it will not be enough: More than 75% of the sites on the EPA’s Superfund priorities list have been there for more than 20 years, in part due to a severe lack of funding. No community should have to deal with these toxic chemicals. The polluter-pays tax on petroleum, currently under consideration in the Build Back Better Act, is the next right step to clean up Superfund sites and protect all our communities from deadly toxic waste.”

“This new funding is coming at a crucial time to protect public health from pollution,” said John Rumpler, senior director of Environment America’s clean water program. “More than 40 years after the Love Canal disaster, it’s appalling that we’re still stuck with a legacy of toxic waste. Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ now add to the burden, and severe storms from climate change threaten to spread toxins from waste sites to neighborhoods and drinking water supplies. For all these reasons, it’s so critical that the Biden administration has started to put the fund back into Superfund.”