Homepage News Archive

Refineries to pay $5.5M for Lake Charles-area contamination

 — Nine oil refineries and chemical companies in the Lake Charles area have agreed to pay the federal government $5.5 million for their contamination of parts of the northern Calcasieu River estuary.
The settlement was announced this month by the U.S. Justice Department, according to The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate. The latest in a series of federal and state legal actions against more than a dozen industrial plants for polluting the river basin with toxic chemicals and heavy metals, including dioxin and mercury, it covers less than half of the Environmental Protection Agency’s $13 million response costs for contamination caused by this group.
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Photo Credit: Google Earth

Backyard Talk

President Biden’s Infrastructure Plan is a Chance to Right a 26-Year-Old Wrong

By: Kristen Millstein, Communications Intern
After several months of working on the Make Polluters Pay campaign with CHEJ, hearing that President Biden’s infrastructure bill included a Polluters Pay Tax felt like a breath of fresh air. The Polluters Pay Tax, which expired in 1995, funded the Superfund program and was used to clean up toxic waste sites when the responsible party could not be identified or was unable to pay. Since then, money to clean up toxic sites has come from general tax revenue. These funds are not sufficient, and they force ordinary taxpayers to pay for the mess corporate polluters made. The number of cleanups has steadily declined due to a lack of funding and the backlog of toxic sites has increased. Efforts by environmental groups and lawmakers to reinstate this tax have failed thus far. However, it is difficult not to feel some hope for this new push to reinstate the tax and finally hold corporations accountable for pollution and toxic waste. The current political moment might be just what we need to right a 26-year-old wrong.
It’s easy to miss the Polluters Pay Tax among all the other policies and priorities included in President Biden’s proposal. It’s all the way at the bottom, under a tiny subheading that says “Eliminate Tax Preferences for Fossil Fuels and Make Sure Polluting Industries Pay for Environmental Clean Up.” But though it’s only a small part of a much larger plan, its impact could be life-changing for the communities living near toxic sites. From California to New Jersey, CHEJ works with communities suffering from health problems like cancer, kidney disease, and autoimmune conditions due to toxic exposure from Superfund sites. Some communities have been on the National Priority List for forty years and are still waiting for clean up, and the list is only growing. With the reinstatement of this tax, the EPA could finally begin to do the clean-up work it is supposed to do and protect the health of the 73 million Americans living within 3 miles of a Superfund site.
This is an incredible opportunity, but we can’t assume the tax will pass. Industry is already ramping up its attacks against the legislation, and no Congressional Republicans have expressed any support for raising taxes on corporations. Slim Democratic majorities in the House and Senate mean we must unify all Democratic congresspeople behind this infrastructure package and the Polluters Pay Tax in particular. Democrats Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have already introduced Polluters Pay bills. Now is the time to call our representatives, activate our frontline communities, and put the pressure on lawmakers from every state to support the Polluters Pay Tax–we’ve waited 26 years, and we cannot wait any longer.
Photo Credit: CHEJ

Homepage News Archive Superfund News

Can Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Save the Superfund Program?

As Biden deliberated where to unveil the American Jobs Plan in late March, Pittsburgh was an obvious choice. A former manufacturing mainstay, it was where Biden launched his presidential campaign two years ago, in a sign that he wanted to revitalize the Rust Belt. Now, he returned to reaffirm his commitment to the region by making it the spot to announce over $2 trillion in infrastructure spending.
Yet Pittsburgh was an apt choice for another reason. The surrounding county is home to four of Pennsylvania’s most toxic Superfund sites. (The state is saddled with 91 sites in total.) Although Biden didn’t mention it in his speech that day, the American Jobs Plan, if passed, would pump money into the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund program, which has been in a dire financial state for the last two decades.
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Photo Credit: Matt Rourke/AP Photo