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U.S. Sens. Booker, Menendez, Boxer Introduce Legislation to Hold Industry Responsible for Cleanup of Superfund Sites

July 29, 2014

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) today introduced legislation to force industries responsible for contamination of Superfund sites to pay for their clean-up.

The Superfund Polluter Pays Restoration Act of 2014, which Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) joined as co-sponsors, reinstates the excise tax on polluting industries to pay for the cleanup of Superfund sites, relieving taxpayers of the expense. It also expands the definition of crude oil in order to make oil from tar sands and shale subject to the excise tax. Additionally, it makes funds available to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on an ongoing basis, not subject to annual appropriations.

“Every day, innocent New Jerseyans suffer the physical and financial consequences of living close to severely contaminated sites,” said Sen. Booker. “This legislation holds industries accountable for cleaning up the harmful results of their irresponsible practices. Taxpayers should not be financing the cleanup of a mess they did not create. This bill corrects an inexcusable injustice and places the onus on polluters to restore Superfund sites back to safe, healthy areas that can attract investment and economic development.”

New Jersey has 114 Superfund sites on the National Priority List – more than any other state. These sites are the most heavily contaminated properties in the country, and are the areas that pose the greatest potential risk to public health and the environment. These sites are poisoning nearby residents, endangering the health of children, and thwarting economic development in communities across the country.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the EPA does not have adequate resources to clean up the more than 1,300 sites on the agency’s list of most polluted areas, including 89 locations that have “unacceptable human exposure” to substances that can cause birth defects, cancers, and developmental disorders.

“Every New Jerseyan has a vested interest in doing all we can to make the Superfund Trust Fund as solvent, strong, and effective as possible,” said Sen. Menendez. “Businesses cannot contaminate our land, exploit our resources and endanger our communities without consequence. Making polluters pay is essential to protecting the health of our families and our environment without overburdening average hard-working taxpayers, who shouldn’t be the ones paying for the mistakes of those who caused the problem in the first place.”

“Families living near Superfund sites, which are contaminated with toxic brews like arsenic, benzene, lead and mercury, should not have to continue to worry that their children will get cancer. Polluters leave toxic messes in our communities and then make the American people pay for it – with both their health and their money. This legislation will ensure that polluters pay to clean up Superfund sites, not American taxpayers, ” said Senator Boxer.

What stakeholders are saying:

·“By reinstating the original funding source, the Superfund Polluter Pays Restoration Act will be good for New Jersey municipalities and will help protect our health, our environment, and our economy,” William Dressel, Jr. Executive Director, NJ Leagues of Municipalities.

·“The responsibility for contamination, and thus the cleanup, lies with those that put it there to begin with,” Joseph Della Fave, Executive Director, Ironbound Community Corporation.

·“The Superfund can’t be super – or even do its mission –without a consistent funding mechanism like the excise tax. The appropriated budgets in 2013 and 2014 were the lowest in 25 years. The result, as you well know, is a tortuous pace for completing clean-ups, if they are started at all,” Doug O’Malley, Executive Director, Environment New Jersey.

Organizations that have submitted letters endorsing the Superfund Polluter Pays Restoration Act of 2014 include:

Association of NJ Environmental Commissions

Hackensack Riverkeeper, NY/NJ Baykeeper

Environment New Jersey

Edison Wetlands Associationv

Ironbound Community Corporation

NJ Sierra Club

NJ Conservation Foundation

New Jersey League of Municipalities

New Jersey League of Conservation Voters