STATEMENT OF SENATOR JOHN KERRY
Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics, Risks, and Waste Mgmt.
July 31, 2002
Thank you, Madame Chair, for the opportunity to testify at this important hearing today. I also want to thank you for your leadership on Superfund issues in the Senate.†
In the twenty-two year history of the Superfund program, the late 1990's were the best of times.†† A record number of cleanups were completed, achieving the environmental and public health results first envisioned by Superfundís creators.†
Unfortunately, this success is now in serious jeopardy from the Bush Administration, which is dramatically reducing the number of Superfund site cleanups completed each year, and allowing critical funds instrumental to the programís success to be entirely depleted.†††††
We cannot afford to let our nationís superfund program fall prey to President Bush and his so-called Environmental ďProtectionĒ Agency. People in communities all across America are counting on us to save superfund - - not only for the health of the environment, but for the health of the public as well.†
People in communities - like Patty Estrella in my home state of Fairhaven, Massachusetts where the abandoned Atlas Tack factory leaches poison every day into the bay - need our help.
Thereís no disputing the facts. In 2000, the EPA offered a clean up plan for the 24-acre arsenic-laden site that we all thought would actually happen. But two years after the plan was approved by town and state officials, the Atlas Tack site remains nearly as dangerous as it was a decade ago.†
The EPA doesnít deny it. In fact, the EPAís own reports say the site is a health risk to any human or animal who visits the area or ingests shellfish harvested nearby.
Knowing this, itís beyond my comprehension that Atlas Tackís cleanup - once scheduled to start in April - is currently destined to remain unfunded by the Bush Administration.
We are talking here about a site that is known to contain heavy metals, cyanide, PCBs, pesticides, . . .† We are talking about a site where over 7200 residents, living within one mile of Atlas Tack, are being forced to live in a toxic plume.†
I want to know this of President Bush - - is he willing to go back to that community and look those families in the eyes and tell them that he is not going to help?
Because thatís exactly what the EPA Inspector General report says is going on.† The report identifies a funding shortfall in President Bush's budget of more than $225 million dollars which will dramatically slow the pace of cleanup at our nation's superfund sites. Thirty-three sites in 19 states are adversely affected - sites like Atlas Tack in Fairhaven.†
The last time I checked, the goal of the Superfund program is to expeditiously cleanup the most dangerous contaminated toxic waste sites in the country to protect public health and the environment.†
This goal is being seriously imperiled by the slowdown in cleanups caused by inadequate funding in the President's Budget. But it doesnít stop there.
By refusing to clean up the sites and then collect costs from the responsible parties, Bush and the EPA have essentially given the nationís biggest corporate polluters a multimillion-dollar reprieve.
Throughout the programís history, Superfund clean ups were primarily paid for by the polluters themselves.† A trust fund was also established, based on funds collected from both a corporate environmental income tax and excise taxes to pay for the clean up of sites where EPA could not find the responsible party, or the guilty party was bankrupt or unwilling to conduct the cleanup.† EPA says the trust fund was used to clean 30 percent of the waste sites, while guilty corporations paid for the other 70 percent.
The concept of polluter pays≠ will become an empty slogan if something is not done to keep the trust fund from going broke in 2004.† The fund has dwindled from a high of $3.8 billion in 1996 to an estimated $28 million next year.† So whoís left footing a large portion of the bill?† The answer, unfortunately, is taxpayers.
This situation is unacceptable on a number of levels - - not only is the President not willing to clean up our nationís most contaminated sites, he wants to shift the costs away from the polluters and towards the taxpayers.†
I would hope to hear today from the EPA not more of their excuses for letting cleanups at our Superfund sites come to a standstill or their excuses for letting corporate polluters off the hook, but what the agency is going to do to remedy this situation.
I want answers and I want them today. People like Patty Estrella that have been fighting for years to rid their neighborhoods of toxic contamination deserve answers.†