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Superfund: Setting the Record Straight

Release Date: 10/01/2003
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Involvement Office, 617-918-1064

Myth: Superfund is running out of money.

FACT: Funding for Superfund, the nation's primary program to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous wastes, is actually increasing.

    • Annual appropriations by Congress for Superfund have remained relatively steady at approximately $1.3 billion during both the Clinton and Bush Administrations.
    • The Bush Administration requested an additional $150 million–above and beyond existing funding levels– for Superfund in the FY2004 budget.
    • While the FY2004 Budget is not yet finalized, the House version calls for a $39 million increase in Superfund dollars while the Senate version calls for a $28 million increase. It is hoped that the House and Senate will agree to increase the Superfund appropriation to a level closer to the President's request.
Myth: Because the Superfund tax has not been renewed by Congress since 1995, continuation of the program is in jeopardy.

FACT: Existence of the Superfund tax has not affected funding levels for the Superfund program.

    • Congress has continued to allocate funding to Superfund since the tax expired. EPA continues to identify sites for cleanup and to do the work to clean contaminated sites.
    • Congressional appropriations for Superfund historically included funding both from General Revenues and from Trust Fund revenues. The source of congressional appropriations has not affected the appropriation for Superfund cleanups - about $1.3 billion per year.
    • EPA is confident that Congress will continue to provide funding for the Superfund program, and it is likely that the Superfund appropriation will increase in FY ‘04.
Myth: Because the Superfund Tax was not renewed by Congress, that means that U.S. taxpayers are now paying for all Superfund clean up activities.

FACT: The majority of Superfund cleanups are paid for by the person or group who bears responsibility for the cleanup. EPA remains committed to the "polluter pays"principle.

    • Approximately 70 percent of Superfund cleanup activities historically have been paid for by parties responsible (PRPs) for the cleanup of contamination. EPA continues to pursue PRP's and PRP resources.
    • The only time cleanup costs are not borne by the PRP is when the PRP can not be found or is unable to pay for the cleanup.
    • Since 1980, EPA has secured $20.6 billion in cleanup commitments from PRPs.
    • In FY2002 alone, EPA's enforcement efforts secured approximately $627 million from PRPs, and responsible parties paid for 48 new Superfund construction projects.
Myth: The expiration of the Superfund Tax in 1995 means that new sites do not get added to EPA's list for cleanup.

FACT: Sites continue to be added to the National Priority List for Superfund cleanup.

    • EPA is working to address a current backlog of cleanup construction projects which await funding.
    • Currently, eight large and very complicated clean up sites account for 40 percent of the yearly cleanup construction budget. While these cleanups are critical, they do have a "ripple effect" on other, less contaminated or otherwise less risky sites that await cleanup activity.
    • EPA is trying to identify ways to redirect funding from other portions of the Superfund appropriation towards cleanup construction.
    • Recognizing that the eight "mega-sites" are consuming 40 percent of the Superfund dollars, EPA and the Administration have proposed a $150 million increase in the Superfund appropriate so that many smaller, less expensive cleanups can move forward.
What Can People Expect During the Next Year?
    • The Bush Administration requested an additional $150 million for Superfund in the FY2004 budget to help address the backlog of unfunded Superfund cleanups.
    • The Senate Appropriations Committee, in their September markup of the FY2004 budget, approved only approximately $28 million in additional funding for Superfund cleanups. The House version includes approximately $39 million of the President's requested $150 million.
    • The additional money approved by the Senate and the House will likely fund a few new cleanups nationally. Fully funding the President's $150 million request could fund 10 to 15 new cleanups.