2003 Scorecard Vote
Created by Congress in 1980, the Superfund program was founded on the principle that polluters should pay to clean up the toxic waste they create in part by contributing to a fund for cleaning up abandoned waste sites. Since then, Superfund has cleaned up more than 886 sites across the country. Despite this progress, a quarter of America's population still lives within four miles of a Superfund toxic waste site.
Unfortunately, the pace of Superfund cleanups has dropped by more than half over the past three years. In 2003, for example, the Bush administration cleaned up only 40 sites--as opposed to the 87 sites per year averaged by EPA during President Clinton's last term. Meanwhile, the funding burden for Superfund has shifted away from industry and toward the U.S. taxpayer. Superfund fees formerly paid by polluters--in the form of taxes on toxic chemicals and petroleum products and an environmental tax on large corporations--expired in 1995, causing the Superfund trust fund to run out of money at the end of fiscal year 2003, according to a recent GAO report. As a result, cleanup bills are now being footed by taxpayers, who have gone from covering only 18 percent of Superfund program costs in 1995 to up to 100 percent in 2004.
Even with this infusion of taxpayer dollars, the Bush administration underfunded the Superfund program by at least $175 million in fiscal year 2003, according to an EPA Inspector General's report, and this pattern will likely continue as Superfund is forced to compete with hundreds of other environmental programs for funding. The administration has resisted calls to reinstate the "polluter pays" fees, which would shift the cleanup burden back to the industries that create the waste and would provide a steady and equitable funding source for the program. During consideration of the fiscal year 2004 budget resolution, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced an amendment to restore the "polluter pays" fees. On March 25, 2003, the Senate rejected the Lautenberg amendment by a 43-56 vote (Senate roll call vote 97). YES is the pro-environment vote.