I think that the record needs to be set straight on a number of fronts. Industry - not EPA - has been funding a vast majority of cleanups. More than 70 percent of site cleanups have been conducted and paid for by private parties. The law puts the burden of paying for cleanup squarely on responsible parties. The Trust fund only bears the costs of cleanup when no responsible party can be found, or where Congress has exempted the responsible parties. In the seven years since Superfund taxes expired, responsible parties continued to pay for all cleanup costs at their sites and reimbursed EPA for its costs to oversee cleanup. Last year, EPA collected a record $1.7 billion in cleanup funds from responsible parties - more than EPA spends for Superfund each year.
Of the remaining 30 percent of sites, the Bush Administration has not cut funding for Superfund cleanups. All sites with on-going cleanups will receive funding in fiscal year 2002 to allow work to continue, and no work is being suspended. In my home state of Oklahoma, one site will be allowed to begin cleanup. I do not think that EPA funding this site at $3 million to begin clean up is a step in the wrong direction. The other site, Tar Creek - the Nation's worst Superfund site, will continue ongoing efforts to clean up the site.
The IG report is not an accurate depiction of what is really happening. The Superfund cleanup construction program is constantly evolving, and funding decisions are made over the course of the entire year - - not simply at the beginning of the fiscal year. As a result, the Inspector's General report represents a snap shot in time, two months ago, and does not accurately reflect current funding decisions nor all final funding decisions. When phases of the Superfund cleanup process are completed, some funding may remain in related contracts. This left-over money may be applied to fund construction at other sites. This funding is often secured toward the end of a fiscal year. Moreover, final funding decisions may occur late in the fiscal year.
Far from cutting or eliminating sources of funding, EPA plans to use all of its Fiscal Year 2002 funding for cleanup construction ($224 million) and is also working diligently to secure additional funding from completed Superfund contracts that have dollars left over after the bills are paid.
Sen. Boxer and I do not see eye-to-eye on a lot, but we worked very well together on the brownfields legislation. However, when moving the brownfields legislation, I made it crystal clear that the Superfund taxes should not be reinstated until comprehensive reform is enacted. While important, brownfields legislation is NOT comprehensive reform. Therefore, I will strongly oppose any efforts to reinstate the taxes until true reforms are enacted.
Despite what will be implied today, Superfund will continue to take action to address imminent threats to human health and the environment through the Superfund emergency removal program. Furthermore, the Bush Administration has been and will continue to ensure that our nation's most contaminated sites are cleaned up.