Thursday, August 14, 2014

Schumer wants polluter tax reinstated to boost Superfund program

Posted By on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 5:31 PM

The former Diaz Chemical site in the Village of Holley is something of a poster child for state and federal Superfund programs.

Back in 2002, the plant accidentally released a 75-gallon steam cloud laced with chemicals, including some so potent that, even as they spread through the air and dissipated over the village, they wrecked the paint on some residents’ cars. Some of the neighbors couldn’t go into their homes without feeling sick or suffering from breathing difficulties. The government ended up buying some of their houses. (I started working at the Journal-Register in Medina shortly after the release, and I covered some of the aftermath. I’ll never forget how upset those neighbors were about giving up their homes.)

Diaz folded in 2003, which was about the same time that state and federal environmental officials discovered some serious pollution problems at the site. The plant became a Superfund site in 2004, and some of the most immediate problems were addressed. For example, drums of chemicals were pulled out of the plant. But substantial cleanup is still needed before the site can be reused. An EPA plan finalized two years ago carries a $14.5 million price tag. Diaz is one of many Superfund sites, though, and there’s not enough money in the program to move swiftly on them.

This afternoon, Schumer stood at the Diaz Chemical site to lay out his proposal for replenishing the Superfund. He wants polluting industries to pay a tax, and the proceeds would be dedicated to the Superfund.

In a press release, Schumer says the Superfund was funded through such a tax from its creation in 1980 through 1995. The program had $3 billion in 1996, but was depleted by 2003. Now it’s funded by a yearly budget allocation of approximately $1 billion.

Schumer says he’ll also push for increased budget allocations for the Superfund program.

“I understand the lack of adequate funding in the Superfund trust has limited EPA’s progress to complete remediation work on sites like Diaz,” Schumer said in a letter to the EPA, released by his office. “Without question polluters should be required to again pay into the Superfund trust to safeguard taxpayers from having to otherwise shoulder the full cost to cleanup these abandoned and contaminated industrial sites. That is why I am supporting legislation to reinstate the now-expired requirement that petroleum and chemical industries must pay into the Superfund trust and likewise will support increased annual appropriations for the EPA to conduct remediation at Superfund sites.”

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