Environmental Remediation: Why Cleanup Is Worth the Cost and Who Should Pay

March 2022

As of 2015, 73 million Americans live within three miles of a Superfund site. Superfund site cleanups have not been funded through excise taxes on petroleum since 1995 and instead are funded through annual federal appropriations of taxpayer dollars. The U.S. government should reinstate a similar tax to continue funding site cleanups but delegate the leadership to the state and local levels. Superfund sites contain toxic chemicals such as lead, benzene, and arsenic that can enter the air, water, and soil. Cleanups have positive benefits on public health, local economies, and equity. Financing these cleanups can be done at either a federal or state level, but the funding stream with the most benefits would be to tax environmentally harmful corporations and then provide this money through grants to the states for cleanup. This policy proposal aims to encourage alternatives to environmentally harmful products, raise money for environmental cleanup, and decrease the tax burden borne by American citizens.