Breakdown of Superfund budget sources

$1,800 -| $1,600 -$1,400 -$1,200 -$1,000 $800 $600 $400 $200 $0

■ Trust fund share □ General revenues share m

source: Adapted from "Superfund Budget History," in About Superfund, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, 2005, http://www.epa .gov/superfund/action/process/budgethistory.htm (accessed August 4, 2005)

and municipalities may be unable to assume such expense. The EPA reports that the government currently collects only one-fifth of the cleanup costs that could be recovered from polluters under the Superfund law. According to the EPA, in many cases the polluters have disappeared or are unable to pay. In other cases the agency lacks the staff or evidence to proceed with lawsuits.

All of these factors have resulted in only modest amounts of money being collected for the Superfund Trust Fund through cost recoveries. Total revenue into the Fund dropped substantially beginning in 2000. (See Figure 8.8.) However, the EPA has continued to add sites to the NPL that require cleanup. Since 1987 the EPA has spent an average of $1.4 billion each year to operate the Superfund Program.

Much of the Superfund budget is spent on mega sites. Mega sites are large complex sites where the total cleanup cost per site is expected to be $50 million or more. In 2004 an EPA advisory council examined mega sites in the "Final Report: Superfund Subcommittee of the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology." The report noted that mega sites comprise less than 10% of the sites on the NPL but place a tremendous burden on the Superfund budget. For fiscal year 2004 the EPA reports that more than half of its annual budget was dedicated to just nine sites. Budget shortfalls meant that nineteen sites that were ready for construction could not be funded that year.

In recent years the EPA has increasingly relied on money appropriated from the federal government's general fund to pay for NPL cleanups. During the early 2000s the general fund accounted for roughly half of all appropriations to the Superfund Program, as shown in Figure 8.8. The budgets for 2004 and 2005 were based entirely on the general fund. This means that all American taxpayers are assuming the financial burden to clean up hazardous waste sites under the Superfund Program. Some critics have called for the federal government to reinstate dedicated taxes against petroleum and chemical corporations to fund the Superfund Program, instead of burdening tax-paying citizens.

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