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Pallone, Pascrell Legislation Will Force Polluters to Pay for Superfund Cleanup

Roughly 50 percent of New Jersey’s population lives within three miles of a Superfund site

Congressmen Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-06) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) today announced the reintroduction of legislation to help the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean up Superfund sites listed on the EPA’s National Priorities List. The Superfund Polluter Pays Act would reinstate the Superfund tax to make sure polluters pay for the cleanup of Superfund sites – not taxpayers. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) will introduce the companion bill in the Senate.

Roughly 50 percent of New Jersey’s population lives within three miles of a Superfund site. Superfund sites are areas contaminated with toxic substances that can make their way into the air, drinking water wells, creeks and rivers, backyards, playgrounds and streets. Communities impacted by these sites can face restrictions on water and land use and recreational activities as well as economic losses as property values decline due to proximity to contaminated sites. In the worst cases, residents of these communities face health problems such as cardiac impacts, infertility, low birth weight, birth defects, leukemia, and respiratory difficulties.

In 1995, a Republican Congress allowed the Superfund taxes to expire, despite opposition from Pallone and other Democrats. Before its expiration, the collected taxes were placed into a Superfund Trust Fund that was used for the cleanup of so-called “orphaned sites,” where the party responsible for the pollution either no longer existed or could not afford the cost of the cleanup. Without those revenues, Superfund cleanups have been delayed, the backlog of sites needing cleanup has grown, and the costs have shifted to the taxpayers. Pallone’s legislation would reinstate the superfund taxes on polluters and make adjustments for inflation.

“The American taxpayer should not be paying for the mistakes of corporate polluters,” said Congressman Pallone. “Superfund sites threaten public and environmental health in New Jersey and across the country, and those sites could be cleaned up faster with adequate funding. The Superfund Polluter Pays Act will replenish the necessary funds by holding corporations accountable for environmental degradation. Congress must step up and pass legislation that protects hardworking families from having to pay for the misdeeds of corporate polluters.”

“Too many New Jersey communities have suffered beside Superfund sites that have languished without attention for decades. Just because the Congress hasn’t been able to reauthorize the Superfund tax is no excuse for asking our Garden State neighbors to carry on their shoulders the health and financial burdens of this catastrophe,” said Congressman Bill Pascrell. “It’s time right now to fund the Superfund cleanup program – and make the polluting industries, not the general public, pick up the tab. I am proud to support Chairman Pallone and Senator Booker’s legislation so our taxpayers don’t have to face the added indignity of cleaning up after polluters who have harmed our cities and towns with their poison.”

“Superfund sites don’t just contaminate the ground and water—the high levels of carcinogens that seep out have led to heightened risks of cancers, birth defects and other serious health problems,” said Senator Booker. “The stakes could not be higher for New Jerseyans—half of our state lives within three miles of one of these Superfund sites. It’s time to address this injustice, clean up these sites, and hold polluting industries accountable for conditions they would never accept in their own communities.”

“In our country, people who commit minor crimes have to pay restitution fines. Even if they are poor or if the crime was out of necessity, they owe a debt to society for their infraction. Now in the instance of Superfund sites, we’re content with the rich entities responsible for massive amounts of pollution in our environment not paying their fair share? Unacceptable,” said Marcus Sibley, Chairman of the New Jersey State Conference NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Committee. “Therefore, The New Jersey State Conference NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Committee commends Congressman Pallone’s reintroduction of the Superfund Polluter Pays Act. The victims should not foot the bill left by the perpetrators.”

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