Saturday, May 30, 2015

How Far Do You Live From a Superfund?

Once again oil is appearing on the coast of California. But this time near Los Angeles as globs of inexplicable oil that apparently nobody knows where they come. Not far from the Santa Barbara spill of a few days ago this spills is just another reminder that is it extremely difficult to make those responsible for these incidents to be accountable. If you want to read more about these mysterious globs of oil click here.

With all the environmental disasters that are in the news these days we are confronted again with the poignant question about who pays. Who is going to pay or is paying for these disasters? But the question is not only referred to accidents, there is an inherent cost with any economic activity where some kind of industrial production is involved as chemical damage to the environment inescapably happens.

In last December issue of the National Geographic magazine we find an article about "Superfunds." In this article a dynamic map (click here for the map) is shown where you can find how far you live from a superfund. It is interesting to see how even in 'remote' northwest coast places like Portland OR we live not far from a superfund in fact I found out that I live near 7 superfund sites in a 10 mile (16 km) radius. Not all superfund sites are of the same magnitude, of course, but even a 'small' superfund is huge as they have to be in order to be designated with the prefix 'super'.

From National Geographic December 2014

The history, development, and implementation of the superfund program are very interesting subjects and raise interesting questions like: why was funding for the superfund program terminated?
In 1980 Congress created it to have funding for cleaning up of industrial pollution much of which was produced by corporations no longer existing and thus unaccountable. The stockholders and beneficiaries of the profits obtained during the time that pollution was created were long-gone and enjoying the riches of their industry. No where to be found and no way to be made accountable. That is why the US Congress created the federal program to deal with a huge environmental problem of abandoned sites contaminated with hazardous waste. (To learn more visit the EPA website for the superfund program clicking here.) The fund was to be financed by taxes paid by corporations now active in similar business. The philosophy behind this proposal was that if one of these corporations would go out of business, say by bankruptcy, the fund would provide for the cleanup of the hazardous waste. Including in this fund were the sites that were already identified which were produced by corporations no longer in business. Few places like the Handford site in Richland, Washington or Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville NC were contaminated by military activity so they are responsibility of the federal government i.e. us the whole citizenry of the U.S.

When the superfund program was created in 1980 taxes to the oil and chemical industry but in 1995 the US Congress let those taxes expire so then since 1995 the superfund has been supported by the 'general fund' of the federal government, which means that we all are footing the bill!

If the California coast becomes another superfund site will require massive amounts of money.

Would it be sensible to make those responsible (mainly the oil corporations operating using the California coast) pay?

Would it be sensible re-establish the taxes that were in place until 1995 to finance superfund operations?

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