Saturday, February 28, 2009

Being A Corporation Means Never Having To Clean Up Your Messes

This news would be very encouraging, if it actually makes it through the budget process, which I doubt. Obama plans to bring back the Superfund tax:
The EPA budget proposal would restore excise taxes on oil and chemical producers to replenish the Superfund Trust Fund for hazardous-waste cleanup. The Superfund tax, which expired in 1995, would be reinstated sometime after 2011 “after the economy recovers,” according to the budget request. It would raise an estimated $6.6 billion by 2014.

But why stop at oil and chemical producers? What about the waste created by large agribusiness, such as last year’s 10,000 gallon hog waste spill?

What about Cargill’s salt ponds on the Napa River and San Francisco Bay, which is waste from their sea salt extraction operation? Reclamation has become a hot button as conservatives falsely claim that the money is "pork" to benefit marsh mice. That’s incredibly dishonest. It’s to clean up Cargill’s mess.

If you’ve ever flown into San Francisco International Airport you can see these things from the air. It’s thousands of acres of toxic waste. (Photographer David Sanger has some beautiful pictures--do check them out.)

Instead of cleaning up their mess, Cargill wants to profit from selling it to the government. And conservatives are giving them cover.

Congress passed the Superfund bill in 1980. From Wiki:

Approximately 70% of Superfund cleanup activities historically have been paid for by parties responsible (PRPs) for the cleanup of contamination. The only time cleanup costs are not borne by the responsible party is when that party either can not be found or is unable to pay for the cleanup. For those sites, the Superfund law originally paid for toxic waste cleanups through a tax on petroleum and chemical industries. The chemical and petroleum fees were intended to provide incentives to use less toxic substances. Over five years, $1.6 billion was collected, and the tax went to a trust fund for cleaning up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. The last full fiscal year in which the Department of the Treasury collected the tax was FY1995.

Let’s see, what happened in 1995? Someone remind me? Oh yeah, the faux-populist “Gingrich Revolution,” better known as no corporation left behind.

At the end of FY1996, the invested trust fund balance was $6.0 billion. This fund was exhausted by the end of FY2003; since that time funding for these orphan shares has been appropriated by Congress out of general revenues.

Yes, why make polluting corporations clean up the messes they make, let’s foist that off on the taxpayers. Honk if I’m paying to clean up your toxic waste spill.

Anyway, one of the best things about having a Democrat in the White House is that we’re finally seeing some attention paid to environmental regulations. Let’s hope this stuff makes it through the budget process.