Tag: Superfund

Return of Superfund?

Return of Superfund?

Toxic seeps at Elizabeth Copper Mine Superfund site in Vermont (Photo: USGS)

For a decade and a half, the U.S. government’s toxic-cleanup program, Superfund, has neither been super nor much of a fund. Now, Superfund might finally earn its name again.

The federal program (known among environmental policy wonks as Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA) is supposed to clean up the country’s most toxic and complex waste sites, using money from corporate petroleum, chemical and other industries that produce toxic pollution — and the hazardous sites that land on the Superfund priorities list. But Congress let the corporate polluter fee expire in 1995, which let companies off the hook for cleanup funding and started draining Superfund’s account from $1.5 billion to virtually nil.

Superfund cleanup of asbestos contamination in Libby, Montana (Photo: US EPA)

In 2003, Grist published an essay I wrote about the sorry state of Superfund and the silly funding choices at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (The piece was originally published through High Country News wire service, Writers on the Range.) At the time, the George W. Bush White House had announced plans to spend a quick $30,000 for enviro-friendly mentions on primetime TV, but had no plans to renew industry payments to Superfund.

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