Are Industrial Polluters Saddling Taxpayers With Inordinate Clean-Up Costs?

Between financial interests, a clean environment and the health of American citizens, which two should the United States Environmental Protection Agency be looking out for?

Under the EPA’s purview is the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), also known as Superfund. This policy regulates the clean-up of hazardous waste sites. Sites that are especially hazardous are placed on the National Priorities List.

There are currently 1,170 sites on that list.

Industrial manufacturing facilities and power plants have typically been subJect to the CERCLA or Superfund policy.
Source: Adobe Stock/Андрей Трубицын
Industrial manufacturing facilities and power plants have typically been subJect to the CERCLA or Superfund policy.

Section 108(b) of CERCLA states that “the President shall promulgate requirements that classes of facilities establish and maintain evidence of financial responsibility consistent with the degree and duration of risk associated with the production, transportation, treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous substances.”

According to Harvard Law School’s Environmental & Energy Law Program, this is meant to prevent companies from saddling taxpayers with the costs of clean-up after they’ve gone bankrupt and possibly even abandoned their operations.

Superfund keeps industrial polluters responsible for cleaning up their mess.
Source: Adobe Stock/jzehnder
Superfund keeps industrial polluters responsible for cleaning up their mess.

In July 2009, the EPA began regulating certain hardrock mining facilities under section 108(b), followed by the electric power industry, the petroleum and coal products manufacturing industry, and the chemical manufacturing industry as outlined  Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, published January 2010.

Then on December 4, 2019, the EPA Administrator signed a proposed rule to not impose financial responsibility requirements for three categories of industrial applications:

  • Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution
  • Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing
  • Chemical Manufacturing Industries
  • The EPA currently plans to use federal tax money to clean up Superfund sites were the previous owner has gone bankrupt.
    Source: Adobe Stock/Shinonome Production
    The EPA currently plans to use federal tax money to clean up Superfund sites were the previous owner has gone bankrupt.

    The EPA declared that the risk posed by the production, transportation, treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous substances by these industries did not warrant financial responsibility requirements, “as modern industry practices and existing federal and state regulations are effective at preventing risk.”

    The agency’s administrator at the time further said that existing monitoring and operation standards have decreased the risk in this industry to a point that if a hazardous waste cleanup is needed, the federal government will bear the cost of cleanup, Industrial Safety & Hygiene News reports.

    Help us restore financial responsibility requirements to CERCLA or Superfund.
    Source: Adobe Stock/kbarzycki
    Help us restore financial responsibility requirements to CERCLA or Superfund.

    According to JD Supra, The 2019 changes to the CERCLA or Superfund were meant to be final, but a number of environmental groups have filed suits against EPA arguing that the agency’s failure to develop such regulations in reference to certain industries was a violation of CERCLA.

    The rule change narrows the EPA’s interpretation of “risk” to only refer to financial risk to the federal Superfund, excluding risks to human health and the environment, issues for which the EPA was created to address. Join us in demanding the EPA revert this change and put the health of Americans and our environment first.

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