Environment and Ecology


What is the Superfund Act?

In 1980, the United States Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, commonly known as the Superfund program. This law (along with amendments in 1986 and 1990) established a $16.3-billion Superfund financed jointly by federal and state governments and by special taxes on chemical and petrochemical industries (which provide 86 percent of the funding). The purpose of the Superfund is to identify and clean up abandoned hazardous waste dump sites and leaking underground tanks that threaten human health and the environment. To keep taxpayers from footing most of the bill, cleanups are based on the “polluter-pays principle.” The EPA is charged with locating dangerous dump sites, finding the potentially liable culprits, ordering them to pay for the entire cleanup, and suing them if they don’t. When the EPA can find no responsible party, it draws money out of the Superfund for cleanup.


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