How is Superfund funded today?

The Polluter Pays Principle

The Polluter Pays Principle is the concept that those responsible for creating pollution should also be financially responsible for damages done to the environment as a result of the pollution. This principle is utilized around the world as a way to prevent damage to human and environmental health; some examples of the Polluter Pays Principle in the US to include the Gas Guzzler Tax and the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for motor vehicles.

Until 1995, the Superfund program also included Polluter Pays taxes, which were pooled into a trust fund that helped pay for the cleanup of Superfund sites. Despite bipartisan support, as evidenced by Reagan, Bush, and Clinton all seeking an extension of the taxes, Congress allowed the Superfund Polluter Pays taxes to lapse in 1995. The trust fund, which at one point was making almost $2 million per year between 1993 and 1995, was completed depleted of funds raised by the Polluter Pays tax by 2003.

Crude Oil and Chemical Taxes

Without Polluter Pays taxes, the Superfund program has become largely reliant on taxpayer money; according to a 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, taxpayers cover 80% of Superfund costs. To shift the financial responsibility of Superfund site cleanup away from taxpayers and back to those responsible for the pollution, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the Superfund Restoration Act in July, 2019. By raising more funds for the Superfund program, this legislation would hopefully allow the program to work more effectively and efficiently.

If enacted, this bill would make the following changes:

  • Restore the Hazardous Substance Superfund financing rate.
  • Increase the rate from 9.7 cents to 16.3 cents per barrel of crude oil, with the rate being adjusted for inflation after 2019.
  • Restore and increase tax rates on taxable chemicals, with rates being adjusted for inflation after 2019.
  • Change the legal definition of “crude oil” to include “any bitumen or bituminous mixture, any oil derived from a bituminous mixture (including oil derived from tar sands), and any oil derived from kerogen-bearing sources (including oil derived from oil shale)”.
  • Restore the Corporate Environment Income Tax to 0.12 percent of revenue in excess of $3,735,000.

Important aspects of the bill:

  • Does include a “sunset clause” – 2029.
  • Exports are not excluded from the terms laid out in the bill.
  • Not only reinstates oil and chemical taxes, but also raises the rates and includes a provision for inflation adjustments.
  • The list of taxable toxic chemicals has been updated.
  • Allows for direct access of funds from oil and chemical taxes rather than relying on Congress to appropriate funding from general revenue.
  • Includes a corporate environmental income tax for companies that have an income above $3,753 million. For every $10,000 in income over $3,753 million, the tax will cost companies $12.00, the price of a cheese pizza at Pizza Hut.

Put the Super back into Superfund

Want to see polluters pay for their messes rather than taxpayers? Contact your representatives and tell them to support Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR) bill (H.R. 4088) Superfund Restoration Act.

Contact Your Represenative
  • Photo by Agnese Kisune on Unsplash

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Put the Super back into Superfund