There's a bumper sticker that says, "DO NOT FLUSH: Be like the mining industry and have someone else clean up your waste." Nowhere is this slogan better exemplified than the Superfund program.
A new U.S. Public Interest Research Group analysis finds that
American taxpayers will pay more than $1.2 billion to clean up after polluters at Superfund toxic waste sites across the country in 2006...[Source: Press Release]
More below the fold.
According to the analysis, one of the reasons for the huge burden to taxpayers to clean up industrial pollution is the phasing out of the "polluter pays" fees in the 1990s.
In 1995, Superfund's polluter pays fees expired. Since then, the financial burden to clean up toxic waste has shifted entirely from polluters to regular taxpayers. Taxpayers now pay for all Superfund-led toxic cleanups, spending well over $1 billion annually to protect public health from the irresponsible business practices of polluting industries. As valuable public dollars are spent on these cleanups...polluting industries are enjoying a $4 million per day tax break courtesy of the American taxpayer. [Source: Analysis]
Lack of funding for the program has caused a decrease in the number of sites cleaned up since 2000.
In 2005, the EPA cleaned only 40 sites, a significant departure from the average of 77 sites cleaned each year between 1992 and 2000. If funding shortfalls persist, the number of toxic sites cleaned will continue to drop.
Hardly a coincidence.
Of course, Superfund applies to more industrial waste than that coming from the mining industry. But mining pollution is a major part of it.
Everyone who cares about protecting our lands from the destruction and pollution caused by mining should be worried right now. Prices for gold and other metals have skyrocketed recently, which only makes the mining industry greedier to step up its operations and make off with a huge profit.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration and conservatives in power are doing anything they can to subsidize and play wet nurse to large mining corporations. This goes beyond forcing taxpayers to pay for cleaning up devastated ecological areas after the corporations have ran off with their immense profits.
In Alaska, where I live, the Kensington Mine north of Juneau, being developed by the international corporation Coeur d'Alene Mines, is one of the first cases to test the Bush administration's new regulatory interpretation of the Clean Water Act. The mine would dump its toxic tailings directly into a freshwater lake because the Army Corps of Engineers is trying to define the tailings as "fill."
The State of Alaska, led by Frank Murkowski, also subsidizes surveying, mapping, and road building, using public money to benefit only private mining corporations. The mining industry also pays less taxes here than the oil industry (which already pays way too little) and even fishermen. Mining is ramping up in Alaska and elsewhere, and it's only going to get worse as the price of gold and other metals continues to rise. We saw through Richard Pombo's proposed selling off of public lands what could be in the future if things don't change.
(Cross-posted at Someone Took In These Pants...)