Last minute tax filers were greeted at the Downtown Denver Post Office today by Colorado citizens concerned that $22.6 million of their 2004 tax dollars will pay for the clean up of Superfund toxic waste sites, while polluters are let off the hook, according to a new analysis released by Environment Colorado and the BE SAFE network.
Armed with the message that polluters—not taxpayers—should pay for the clean up of toxic waste sites, volunteers educated their community about the increasing costs that the Bush administration is charging taxpayers in Colorado for toxic waste cleanups. Last October, the federal Superfund toxic waste cleanup program ran out of polluter-contributed funds, leaving taxpayers to shoulder the financial burden. The “polluter pays” taxes expired in 1995, and President Bush has refused to support this landmark principle, shifting the burden to taxpayers. This year, American taxpayers will pay upwards of $1.27 billion for the Superfund program—an increase of more than 300 percent since the fee expired in 1995. Colorado taxpayers paid $5.4 million in 1995.
“Without an effective funding mechanism for Superfund cleanups, dangerous chemicals will continue to seep into our air, water, and soil and contaminate our children’s playgrounds,” said Emily DeDakis of Environment Colorado.
The “Polluter Pay Tax Day” events were held in more than twenty states to promote protection of public health and the environment through a precautionary approach and “polluter pay” policies. Groups are holding events at post offices to remind taxpayers that they are now footing the bill to clean up abandoned toxic waste sites and urge reinstatement of the “polluter pay” taxes to replenish the Federal Superfund.
With 1,240 toxic waste sites still in need of cleanup, the ramifications of a diminished polluter-funded Superfund trust fund to clean up toxic waste sites places our communities and environment at risk. As cleanups slow from an average of 87 completed per year in the late 1990s to an average of 40 completed per year during the Bush Administration, communities all across the country are living near toxic waste sites for increasingly longer periods. Already, one in four Americans, including 10 million children, lives within a short bicycle ride of a toxic waste site.
The BE SAFE initiative is coordinated by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice and includes over 300 organizations. Over the next year, BE SAFE is gathering thousands of endorsements for the BE SAFE Precautionary Platform to present to the newly elected President in 2005 during the first 100 days of office. The Platform outlines the critical need for government and industry to institute a “better safe than sorry” approach motivated by caution and prevention to protect children from harmful toxic exposures and avoid illnesses.