EPA Says Raise Taxes, Reduce U.S. Competitiveness

By June 21, 2010Regulations, Taxation

From an EPA news release,

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today sent a letter to Congress in support of reinstating the lapsed Superfund “polluter pays” taxes. Superfund is the federal government’s program that investigates and cleans up the nation’s most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. If reinstated, the Superfund provision would provide a stable, dedicated source of revenue for the program and increase the pace of Superfund cleanup. It would also ensure that parties who benefit from the manufacture or sale of substances that commonly cause environmental problems at hazardous waste sites, and not taxpayers, help bear the cost of cleanup when responsible parties cannot be identified.

Lapsed? It “lapsed?” No, the statutory authority expired — in 1995! Seven sessions of Congress have occurred since then, demonstrating the clearly established policy that the environmental clean-up did not require a separate tax to support it.

The American Chemistry Council issued an excellent statement in response. From “ACC: Responsible Parties Paying for Superfund Site Cleanup“:

EPA’s call for the re-imposition of Superfund taxes is a lose-lose for the environment and the economy. We read with particular interest EPA’s comment that ‘parties who benefit from the manufacture or sale of substances commonly found in contaminated sites contribute to the cost of cleanup.’ The fact is, since the taxes expired in 1995, responsible parties have continued paying for the cleanup of Superfund sites and continue to reimburse EPA for all of its cleanup costs. America’s chemical makers and others targeted by the Superfund tax have paid for site remediation several times over: We paid for sites for which we were responsible, we helped pay for ‘orphan’ sites where we were not the responsible party, and we paid corporate taxes such as the Corporate Environmental Income Tax. It would be inappropriate and unfair to impose Superfund taxes on companies with no responsibility for site contamination.

Even worse, EPA’s suggestion is in direct conflict with Congress’s desire to grow U.S. jobs and President Obama’s stated goal of doubling U.S. exports. The re-imposition of Superfund taxes will simply give our foreign competitors, who don’t pay the tax, yet another advantage. We’ll see the loss of U.S. market share, the importation of finished products, the loss of American jobs and even the tax revenue Congress was seeking in the first place.

It’s as if the EPA conceives of its schemes in a vacuum, never recognizing that the United States operates in a global economy and that manufacturers in the United States have to compete against countries that encourage economic growth.

Well, at least the EPA is asking Congress to enact policy. Too bad the executive branch agency failed to show similar restraint on the greenhouse gas regulations.

UPDATE (5:10 p.m.): The Senate Environment and Public Works has a committee hearing scheduled Tuesday on the topic:

Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Program.”
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
02:30 PM EDT
EPW Hearing Room – 406 Dirksen

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