Vitter Summary Statement for Oversight Subcommittee Hearing on EPA's Superfund Program
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Oversight “Protecting Taxpayers and Ensuring Accountability: Faster Superfund Cleanups for Healthier
June 10, 2014
Thank you, Subcommittee Chairman Booker, for convening today's hearing. In this committee we often do not conduct the appropriate level of oversight, particularly of EPA and the programs it administers, so I appreciate you scheduling this important hearing.
According to EPA figures, Louisiana has 26 Superfund sites. These sites are an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located, all of which can be found on the National Priorities List. Ensuring that these sites are cleaned up expeditiously is of great interest to both me and the people of Louisiana.
It seems clear to me that there has been widespread fraud, waste, and abuse by the EPA, and our number one priority as the committee of jurisdiction over the Agency should be to curtail these abuses and ensure that, at a time when Americans are forced to operate on tighter budgets, our government refrains from improperly wasting their hard-earned tax dollars.
One telling example of this kind of waste within EPA's vast bureaucracy is demonstrated by the Superfund program itself. Just yesterday, the EPA Inspector General found that EPA Region 9 improperly paid a contractor more than $1.5 million in additional profit for Superfund cleanup services.
It is rather ironic that the EPA and advocates for this administration complain about the lack of funding for the Superfund program when this program's shortcomings are based on a lack of leadership, poor resource management, and ineffective bureaucracy.
Luckily, within the Superfund context, this Administration has made clear that there is not a direct correlation between the amount of money in the Superfund Trust Fund and the Agency's ability to clean up future projects. In a July 2009 GAO report, EPA plainly stated that "the balance in the Superfund Trust Fund does not affect the funds available for current or future annual appropriations. Therefore, it cannot serve as a reliable indicator to responsible parties of EPA's ability to fund future cleanup actions."
As a matter of fact, this Administration accomplished fewer superfund cleanups in 2009 - a year during which they received $600 million in stimulus money - than any single year of the entire George W. Bush Administration. While the number of cleanups accomplished in 2009 was 20, even more disappointing is EPA's goal for the coming years, aiming to complete 15 sites in 2014 and only 13 in 2015.
I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure EPA is following the letter of the law and operating its programs in ways that provide meaningful environmental and health benefits, but I am concerned that we are again about to embark down the partisan path of implementing punitive taxes on specific industries that some choose to demonize.
Under current Superfund law, in a vast majority of instances the polluter already pays. Responsible parties are either required to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanups under the program. Other cleanups are funded by appropriations designed specifically for this program.
Implementing a blanket tax against domestic manufacturing or industries, such as refining, does not ensure the "polluter pays" - instead it ensures that our national competitiveness is diminished regardless of a company's involvement. And this is at a time when our national competitiveness is about to take a major hit from the President's newly proposed cap-and-trade program.
Thank you again, Subcommittee Chairman Booker, for holding this important hearing, and I look forward to learning about the ways we can improve the Superfund Program from the witnesses.