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As 25th Anniversary Approaches, Superfund Response to Natural Disasters and Toxic Waste Cleanups Jeopardized By Funding Shortfalls
WASHINGTON, DC—On the eve of Superfund’s 25th anniversary, a new report released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) finds Superfund’s ability to respond to natural disasters and toxic cleanups jeopardized by persistent funding shortfalls.
The report, Empty Pockets: Facing Hurricane Katrina’s Cleanup With a Bankrupt Superfund, focuses on the toxic cleanup challenges presented by Hurricane Katrina—the nation’s worst environmental disaster. In conjunction with this report release, Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) introduced a bill to reinstate the Superfund fees and provide a dedicated source of funding for Hurricane Katrina cleanup.
“Superfund was designed to protect the public from toxic threats, but funding shortfalls are crippling the program,” said U.S. PIRG Staff Attorney Alex Fidis. “Without more funding, Superfund approaches natural disaster toxic cleanups with empty pockets.”
The report describes how Superfund cleanups after natural disasters can pose a significant and unexpected financial drain on a program already suffering from a scarcity of funds. This added financial strain compounds existing funding problems and jeopardizes Superfund’s ability to respond to natural disasters and to clean toxic waste sites.
Since 2002, Superfund has endured annual funding deficits, with overall deficits exceeding $600 million. If current program funding levels remain static, funding shortfalls can be expected to increase with Katrina response costs. These funding shortfalls slow or postpone existing toxic cleanups and threaten Superfund’s natural disaster response functions.
“At a time when we should be celebrating Superfund’s silver anniversary, we are instead eulogizing a dying program,” said U.S. PIRG’s Fidis. “Unless funding levels increase, future cleanup costs and potentially massive Katrina costs will continue Superfund’s fiscal free fall.”
The report concludes that Superfund must receive more funding to meet current spending needs in order to protect public health. By reinstating Superfund’s traditional source of income provided by the polluter fees, the program will receive sufficient funding to clean up toxic waste sites and to support disaster response functions.
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