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Financing Superfund.

Financing Superfund

Senate and House negotiators last week produced a compromise package providing $9 billion over five years to finance a new Superfund program for cleaning up toxic-waste dumps. This action comes two months after negotiators arrived at a preliminary agreement covering everything except funding (SN:8/9/86, p.86).

While the original Superfund program was financed entirely by a levy on chemical feedstocks, the new scheme also includes a special, broadly based tax on corporate earnings, a surcharge on crude oil and $1.25 billion from general revenue. A special $500 million fund generated by a new tax on motor fuels is earmarked for cleaning up leaking underground storage tanks.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the compromise legislation last week, and the House was expected to follow the Senate's lead this week. However, because the new program includes a corporate tax affecting a wide range of industries and exceeds the $5.3 billion level that the administration prefers, President Reagan is said to be considering vetoing the bill.

If Reagan were to veto the bill while Congress was still in session, both the Senate and House would probably override the veto. However, if a President fails to sign a bill during the last 10 days of a congressional session, then the legislation dies automatically, and the whole process must begin again. Some members of Congress are trying to ensure that the present session lasts long enough to prevent the President from taking the latter course.

While Congress and the administration continue their battle over how to finance an expanded Superfund program, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started to cut back its cleanup efforts. The original Superfund law expired a year ago, and since then, Congress has periodically provided emergency funding to keep the program going (SN: 3/22/86, p.185). However, those funds are again nearly gone.

"Virtually no new work has been started for months," says Lee M. Thomas, EPA administrator. Furthermore, EPA's emergency response program has been operating "at a drastically reduced level."
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Author:Peterson, Ivars
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 11, 1986
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