Polluters Do Pay

A timely note from Will Hart of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:

Under the guise of deficit reduction and cleaning up the environment, Senate Democrats this week are offering a so called “Polluter Pays” tax amendment to the Budget Resolution. In reality this amendment would levy a massive direct tax on business and an indirect tax on consumers, regardless of whether or not they have ever been connected to a Superfund site or any environmental cleanup. This is NOT a tax on “polluters.”


The “polluter” already pays! When there is an identifiable and viable “polluter,” consistent with the law, those companies are held liable for cleaning up or paying for the cleanup of that site. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency’s focus on making sure that the polluter does in fact pay resulted in 87% of new cleanups borne by Potentially Responsible Parties in 2003 –exceeding the Agency’s historical 70%. Federal Government spending on the Superfund program is directed at cleaning up “orphan” sites, those sites where there is NOT an identifiable and viable party.

Advocates of reinstatement of the Superfund tax will likely also bombastically decry “cuts” in the Superfund budget as another reason to implement the tax. Their reasoning on this point is mythical as well and based on an inaccurate GAO report which fails to reflect that Congress continues to provide level funds to ATSDR, NIEHS, and Brownfields, but from separate appropriations. For Fiscal Year 2005, the President requested $1.4 billion for the Superfund, a $124 million, or 10%, increase over the 2004 Consolidated Appropriations level. This increase reflects a 48 % boost targeted for the Superfund’s remedial program, which will allow 8-12 additional construction starts in 2005 and a similar number of additional completions by 2006.

In addition, the original Superfund tax was more than 50% paid for by the oil and gas industry through revenues brought in by petroleum excise taxes including the Refinery Crude Oil and Importers Petroleum Products Tax, the Chemical Feedstocks Tax, the Imported Chemical Derivatives Tax, and the Special Environmental tax on Corporate Alternative Minimum Taxable Income – even though those industries accounted for far less percentage of the sites. In a time of already drastically increasing fuel and energy costs amid a rebounding economy, one wonders why Democrats would even consider heaping on top these kinds of additional costs which get passed on directly to the American consumers through higher prices at the gas pump.

If members of Congress are sincere in their support for the Superfund program, they should support the President’s budget request, not levy a burdensome tax increase on businesses and consumers that would hurt or economy and create job loses for potentially thousands of hardworking American citizens. Reinstating this tax at the same time complaining about U.S. job losses is exactly the same type of Democrat double talk we are getting more and more accustomed to. On one hand they claim to promote U.S. jobs, but then try to push through unfair taxes that only hamstring struggling businesses.

One might almost say that some of these folks who want to hamstring business are “Benedict Arnolds.”

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