Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman yesterday defended the Bush administration's proposal to cut in half the number of toxic Superfund sites being cleaned up nationwide.
Whitman reasoned that fewer sites should be allotted because of rising cleanup costs, compared with the stagnant toxic waste fund. Congress and the Bush administration have been reluctant to reimpose a Superfund tax on polluters and other businesses.
The Superfund has shrunk from $3.6 billion in 1996 to a projected $28 million in 2003. In his budget proposal last month, Bush also suggested the fund pay $593 million of this year's projected $1.3 billion in cleanup costs.
Approximately 40 cleanups per year are expected to be completed during the Bush administration, half the number of sites cleaned up during the Clinton administration's last four years.
A research group has estimated that the government will spend $14 billion to $16.4 billion on Superfund programs between 2000 and 2009, with annual costs between $1.3 billion and $1.7 billion.
Many argue that polluters and businesses that produce toxic waste should pay a Superfund tax so that the administration will be able to clean up the same amount of sites with less burden on the government and public.
According to Whitman, in the next several weeks, the EPA will meet to complete a new review of which sites should be given priority.