Obama’s EPA Plans Fewer Toxic Cleanups

Posted by Trish Riley, August 10, 2009

This doesn’t sound too impressive. However, when I read the story online at the NYTimes, rather than in my local Gainesville Sun, I discovered that the local paper cut the original story in half, ending at the comparison of the Obama administration to the Bush administration. My local paper cut out the good part, which completely changes the impression of the Obama Administration’s position on Superfund Site cleanups.

This issue is of particular importance to people in Gainesville, too, because we have a basically un-attended Superfund site sitting right in the middle of town.

Know what? As much as I love curling up in bed with coffee and the paper in the morning, I’m not going to renew my subscription to The Gainesville Sun. Sorry, guys. This, by the way, is why we have GoGreenNation.org: To help bring important enviromental news to the public.

In Obama’s first two years in office, the Environmental Protection Agency expects to begin the final phase of cleanup at fewer Superfund sites than in any administration since 1991, according to budget documents and agency records. The EPA estimates it will finish construction to remove the last traces of pollution at 20 sites in 2009 and 22 sites in 2010.

During the eight years of the Bush administration, the agency finished construction at 38 sites on average a year.

”Certainly, we are very disappointed that we can’t get our … numbers up,” said Elizabeth Southerland, the acting deputy of the EPA’s hazardous waste cleanup program, known as Superfund.

The explanation by the Obama team is the same one put forward time and time again by Bush officials: The sites on the list have become increasingly complicated, contaminated and costly. That means it takes years for sites to reach the final cleanup stage, and as a result fewer are getting there.

This is where the story ended in the Gainesville Sun (and who knows how many other papers?).Here’s a bit of the part left out:

Obama, unlike Bush, wants to address the problem that has plagued Superfund for years — a lack of money.

A tax on petroleum, chemicals and large companies once helped EPA pay for the multimillion dollar cleanups. It expired in 1995 and Superfund has been on financial life support since.

The pool of money ran dry in 2004, when Superfund cleanups that did not have a company to foot the bill ceased to be subsidized by the tax on polluters and started being paid by taxpayers.

Obama, unlike Bush, has called for the reinstatement of the tax in 2011.

The Bush administration ”didn’t make an investment. They weren’t willing to increase the tax and they weren’t willing to shift general funds. They were just willing to limp along,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who is sponsoring legislation to restore the tax.

”This administration is not willing to limp along. That’s a profound difference,” he said.

Supporters also point out that the Obama administration has asked for slightly more money in its budget for Superfund — $1.31 billion compared with the $1.29 billion in Bush’s last year. There’s also an extra $600 million from the economic stimulus plan for cleanups at 50 sites across the country.

Forty other sites in 19 states are ready for their last construction project, according to the EPA. While the Obama administration is working to address all of them this year or next, it can’t guarantee it.

”The problems are the same,” said Katherine Probst, an expert on Superfund at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Resources for the Future. ”The point is they need more money, whether it is under Bush or Obama.”

via Obama’s EPA Plans Fewer Toxic Cleanups – NYTimes.com.