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Administration Proposes Hazardous Waste Cleanup Fund

[EPA press release - June 13, 1979]

President Carter today proposed legislation to Congress which would establish a multi-million dollar fund to help clean up hazardous waste dump sites which threaten public health or the environment.

The fund, comprised of Federal money and fees on the oil and chemical industry, would be part of a total governmental response to spills of oil and hazardous substances and problems related to inactive and abandoned hazardous waste disposal sites.

"A rash of recent incidents resulting from improper disposal of hazardous wastes has made it tragically clear that faulty hazardous waste management practices, both past and current, present a grave threat to public health and to the environment," said EPA Administrator Douglas M. Costle. "Hazardous wastes, if not properly disposed of, are capable of causing death, acute poisoning, cancer, miscarriages, and birth defects. There may be several thousand potentially dangerous dump sites around the country."

The proposed legislation authorizes $1.625 billion in fees and appropriations over a 4 year period: $250 million the first year, $375 million the second year, and $500 million the third and fourth years.

The legislation would require government notification of spills and the presence of abandoned hazardous waste sites. It would provide emergency authority for the government to cleanup and mitigate spills and contain the contamination at waste disposal sites; allow the government to recover cleanup costs from liable parties; and provide compensation to innocent victims of spills for property damage or loss of income from damage to marine life.

The Administration also is requesting FY 1980 supplemental appropriations for the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice to investigate and enforce hazardous waste problems.

The supplemental request includes $45 million and 70 positions for EPA, and $1.2 million and 30 positions for Justice. Of the $45 million, $22 would be used for investigating hazardous waste sites and $23 would be used to prevent or contain contamination from waste sites pending Congressional passage of the proposed cleanup fund. The Justice Department appropriation and positions would be used to help conduct investigations and to initiate court actions against illegal dumping or spilling of wastes.

"Eighty percent of the fund established by this legislation will come from fees of up to three cents a barrel on domestic, exported and imported oil and up to ½ cent per pound on the raw materials used to make petrochemicals spilled and found at the hazardous waste sites. In addition, up to one dollar per pound on frequently spilled non-petroleum-based hazardous substances which are also found at hazardous waste sites will be part of the industry fee system. Twenty percent of the fund will be financed by appropriations," Costle said.

"Within three years the legislation will be carefully analyzed to see if the funding and financing provisions have proved to be adequate and effective."