"At least three companies linked by the Environmental Protection Agency to hazardous waste sites are being paid by the government to clean up their own sites, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity."
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), more commonly known as Superfund, financed and created the federal program that cleans up hazardous substances nationwide. Initially, the law taxed the chemical and petroleum industries, as well as certain large corporations, to provide funds to clean up contaminated sites, or "brownfields" created by companies no longer in existence while holding existing companies fiscally liable for contamination they cause. The law also grants broad federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. Superfund is severely criticized for the high cost and long duration of cleanups, encouraging costly litigation, and unfairly assessing liability.
Since 1994 Congress has refused to reinstate the tax and today, with the Superfund depleted, funds come from general taxes, prompting criticism from some that the cleanup burden is now unfairly placed on the public, not the polluter. However, the "polluter taxes" funded cleanup for sites where the polluter could not be identified, or was insolvent, and so companies paying the tax were unfairly paying for some other company's pollution. Whether it is fairer to disburse costs over the industry or the general population is certainly open for debate.
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