Menendez, Booker, Pascrell, Pallone Announce Legislation to Hold Polluters Responsible for Cleanup of Superfund Sites

Menendez, Booker, Pascrell, Pallone Announce Legislation to Hold Polluters Responsible for Cleanup of Superfund Sites

Bill reinstates the excise tax on polluting industries to pay for the cleanup of New Jersey’s most contaminated sites

GARFIELD, NJ – Today, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-NJ) and U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) were joined by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck at the Garfield Ground Water Superfund Site to announce the reintroduction of legislation in the Senate and House that would force industries responsible for contamination of Superfund sites to pay for their clean-up.

“You make the mess, you clean it up. It’s as simple as that,” said Sen. Menendez. “If you profited from polluting the environment then you should pay to clean up the mess you leave behind. It’s time to restore the Superfund Trust Fund, make it solvent, make it effective, and hold polluting companies accountable for the damage they do to our environment. It’s time to clean-up New Jersey’s 113 Superfund sites, including the one here in Garfield, return the land back to the community, protect the health and safety of surrounding residents, and create jobs and economic development for New Jerseyans in the process.”

“Far too many New Jerseyans are forced to suffer the health impacts and financial burdens of living in close proximity to severely contaminated sites,” said Sen. Booker. “It’s simply unacceptable that communities like Garfield have to languish in uncertainty while Congress fails to address the shortfalls in the Superfund cleanup program. We must remain committed to continuing Senator Lautenberg’s legacy of advocating for the well-being of every single New Jerseyan and their right to live in a safe and healthy environment. This bill corrects an inexcusable injustice and places the onus on polluting industries to restore Superfund sites back to safe, healthy areas that can attract investment and economic development.”

“Dealing with this contaminated plume has been long and arduous for the residents of Garfield. Remediating this orphan site must be a top priority, and the federal government must dedicate resources to continue the work," said Rep. Pascrell. "I am committed to the Superfund Polluter Pays Act to make sure taxpayers don’t have to pick up the check for polluters - it should be their cost to bear."

“The American taxpayer should not be paying for the mistakes of corporate polluters," said Congressman Pallone, the House sponsor of the companion bill. “There are Superfund sites in New Jersey and across the country that EPA would be able to clean up if not for the inadequate funding. The Superfund Polluter Pays Act will replenish the necessary funds by holding corporations accountable for their mistakes and environmental degradation. Congress must pass this legislation to protect the American taxpayer and ensure that the industries polluting our land and water are responsible for the cleanup of these sites.”

“The federal Superfund is running on fumes, which has real implications for the people of New Jersey. It is important to reinstate the lapsed Superfund fees as soon as possible,“ said Judith A. Enck, Regional Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Superfund Polluter Pays Restoration Act of 2014 reinstates the excise tax on polluting industries to pay for the cleanup of Superfund sites, relieving taxpayers of the expense. It also expands the definition of crude oil in order to make oil from tar sands and shale subject to the excise tax. Additionally, it makes funds available to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on an ongoing basis, not subject to annual appropriations.

Last year, as the Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Booker chaired a hearing on the need for increased funding for EPA’s Superfund program. Then-Garfield Mayor and current Councilman Joseph Delaney testified at the hearing to discuss the urgent need for increased federal funding to clean up Superfund sites in communities like Garfield.

Following the hearing, Sen. Booker and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) requested a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the downward funding trend and its impact on the effectiveness of the program. The report, released this fall, shows that while the number of Superfund sites increased between 1999 (1,054) and 2013 (1,158), funding for cleanups has continued to decline.

New Jersey has 113 Superfund sites on the National Priority List – more than any other state. These sites are the most heavily contaminated properties in the country, and are the areas that pose the greatest potential risk to public health and the environment. These sites are poisoning nearby residents, endangering the health of children, and thwarting economic development in communities across the country.

The Garfield Groundwater Contamination site consists of groundwater contamination from chromium originating from the E.C. Electroplating, Inc. property. EPA initiated removal action of tanks and soil contaminants in fall 2011 and it continued to May 2014. EPA has funding for the site through 2017, but not enough for remedial action to be completed.