News Releases

Murray Calls on President Bush to Restore "Polluter Pays" Superfund Fees

Sep 26 2002

Bipartisan Senate coalition seeks to protect taxpayers from Superfund cleanup costs

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – In an effort to protect taxpayers from millions of dollars in cleanup costs, Sen. Patty Murray has called on the White House to ensure that polluters continue to pay for cleanup of the nation's most toxic waste sites, known as Superfund sites.

Twenty-seven U.S. Senators from both parties sent a letter this week asking President Bush to restore the fees paid by polluters in the Administration's 2004 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget, to clean up thousands of dangerous sites, including about 60 in Washington state.

Earlier this year, the Bush Administration announced it would not request a reauthorization of Superfund fees on oil and chemical companies. The fee, established in 1980, provides revenue to the Superfund Trust Fund, which ensured that polluters paid the bulk of Superfund cleanups.

Since the fee expired in 1995, taxpayers have paid an increasingly larger percentage of the Trust Fund. That year, taxpayers paid 18 percent into Superfund Trust Fund; and if the President does not reinstate "polluter pays," taxpayers will be on the hook for 100 percent of the Trust Fund by 2004.

In the letter, the Senators pointed out that one in four Americans, including 10 million children, lives within four miles of a Superfund site, putting people at higher risk of cancer, birth defects, and leukemia. Toxic chemicals at these sites include arsenic, lead, mercury, and even Agent Orange.

"We must ensure that polluters, not hardworking taxpayers, pay for the cleanup of these toxic waste sites," said Murray.

The letter to President Bush follows.

September 23, 2002

The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to request that you include reinstating Superfund fees in your fiscal year 2004 budget request.

As you know, the Superfund Trust Fund consists of revenues from fees raised on polluters. Because these fees expired in 1995 and have not been reauthorized, the Superfund Trust Fund has been shrinking and is expected to be out of money by 2004. There has also been a dramatic shift in who pays for Superfund clean-ups from the polluter to the American taxpayer. In 1995, taxpayers paid 18% into the Superfund Trust Fund; that will increase to 54% by 2003. The polluter should ultimately be responsible for paying for the clean-up at Superfund sites, not the general taxpayer.

Currently, one in four Americans, including 10 million children, lives within four miles of a Superfund site. The health effects are very real. Toxic chemicals at these sites include arsenic, lead, mercury, even Agent Orange. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reports that living near a Superfund site is associated with increased birth defects, changes in pulmonary function, neurological damage, and leukemia. Cleaning up Superfund sites is vital to the public health.

On April 10, 2002, EPA Assistant Administrator Marianne Horinko testified before the Superfund Subcommittee of the Environment and Public Works Committee that EPA had not ruled out reinstating Superfund fees. She stated that while money remained in the Trust Fund in 2003 the issue would be reevaluated prior to the 2004 budget request. With only an estimated $28 million remaining in the Superfund Trust Fund, we ask that you call for reinstating these fees.

We look forward to working with you to ensure that polluters pay to clean-up Superfund sites and to help protect communities across the nation threatened by contamination.


U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer
U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden
U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman
U.S. Senator Joe Biden
U.S. Senator John Kerry
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy
U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli
U.S. Senator Tom Harkin
U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka
U.S. Senator Max Baucus
U.S. Senator John Corzine
U.S. Senator Harry Reid
U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow
U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye