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23.3.04

Super Lack Of Funds

Sierra Club Ads Target Bush, Toxic Waste

... The ads, running on television or radio in four cities, blame Bush for not supporting reinstatement of the so-called "polluter pays" tax that funded expensive cleanup of federal Superfund sites. The tax levied on the manufacturers of toxic chemicals expired in 1995 and the Superfund, which boasted $3.6 billion in reserve at its peak, ran out of money last year.

Sierra Club spokeswoman Annie Strickler said that forces ordinary taxpayers — not polluters — to foot the bill for cleaning up some of the worst toxic waste sites. There are nearly 1,300 Superfund National Priority sites in the United States.

... The Bush administration has said it will not support the tax until Superfund is overhauled. Critics of the tax are concerned that it's not linked to a company's actual environmental record.


I cite this here not so much because of the ads, but because of the issue raised -- the using-up of the Superfund tax. It connects up with some things I've posted earlier. On the one hand, shifting the burden from industry to taxpayers as a whole is consistent with the idea of Bush's environmental policy as a way for government to help out business -- in this case by rehabilitating currently "underutilized" sites so that they're available for more easy development.

On the other hand, there's something to the idea that the tax ought to be callibrated to companies' environmental records. The point is not to blame industry as a whole for pollution. Rather, it's to link the creation of pollution to its remediation. As I pointed out in my post about Ed Rendell, pollution taxes serve the additional function of discouraging the taxed activity. Thus, it makes sense to make the system give incentives for cleaner processes.

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