Statement on Proposed Superfund Reauthorization Legislation

February 22, 1985

Today I am sending to the Congress legislation which will expand and strengthen the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, better known as Superfund, which is currently scheduled to expire on September 30, 1985.

The Superfund was enacted in 1980 to provide for the cleanup of abandoned hazardous waste sites, which pose a threat to the public health and the environment. EPA currently has an inventory of 18,000 potential sites that require investigation. Additionally, the National Priorities List, which includes those sites requiring long-term cleanup, has already been expanded from the statutorily mandated minimum of 400 sites to 756 sites. Ultimately, EPA estimates that the number of sites requiring long-term cleanup could total between 1,500 and 2,000. These sites represent the legacy of decades of neglect. We, as a society, must address these serious health threats.

This legislation will more than triple the size of the existing Superfund program, from $1.6 billion to $5.3 billion, which will allow us to substantially increase the size and pace of the Superfund program. In order to fund this threefold increase, we will ask the Congress to extend for another 5 years the existing tax imposed on the manufacture of certain chemicals and to enact a fee, which will go into a dedicated trust fund, on the disposal and treatment of hazardous waste. These taxes and fees will raise approximately $1 billion per year over the next 5 years. I strongly believe that the funds used to pay for the program should be generated entirely through these dedicated sources, not the general Treasury. In addition to the expansion of the Superfund, we have requested increased enforcement authority to ensure that responsible parties either conduct or pay for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites that endanger public health or the environment. We will also seek to guarantee a larger role for affected citizens and the States, and expand authority to respond to emergencies.

In my 1984 and 1985 State of the Union Addresses and in the campaign, I promised that this administration would seek reauthorization of Superfund. This bill fulfills our commitment to the American people to address the legacy of abandoned hazardous waste sites in an expeditious manner. It will allow us to move aggressively forward to eliminate the health and environmental risks associated with past waste disposal practices.

To help ensure prompt enactment of responsible legislation, I have instructed Lee Thomas, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to make reauthorization of this important legislation his highest priority.