Congress Member Velázquez Wants To Bring Back The “Superfund Tax”

Congress Member Velázquez Wants To Bring Back The “Superfund Tax”

GOWANUS/GREENPOINT – For Earth Day, April 22, Congress Member Nydia Velázquez plans to introduce the Superfund Enhancement Act of 2018, a new bill that would bring back the “Superfund Tax,” replenish cleanup funds, and assist small business owners, homeowners, and renters forced to relocate due to Superfund cleanup.

Gowanus Canal seen from the 9th Street Bridge (Photo: Nathan Haselby)

From 1980 to 1995, the federal government taxed industrial polluters, including oil and chemical companies, to create a “cleanup trust fund.” The tax was an essential part of the Superfund program to ensure that the polluters paid for cleanup efforts instead of taxpayers, according Velázquez’s office.

The “Superfund Tax” expired in 1995 and was not renewed by Congress, causing the depletion of the cleanup fund by the end of 2003.

Since then, taxpayers have spent more than $21 billion in cleanup and oversight costs for polluted properties, according to the Washington Post. Since the tax expired in 1995, taxpayer dollars have gone toward the cleanup of “orphaned sites”—polluted sites where the owners/polluters cannot be identified or cannot afford to pay for the cleanup themselves.

Velázquez’s proposed Superfund Enhancement Act would reinstate the “Superfund Tax” and collect $3.5 billion for the cleanup fund, helping to expedite the cleanup of the “orphaned sites” that account for 606 of the country’s 1,279 designated Superfund sites. Reinstating the repealed tax will be the most effective way to quickly create capital for the cleanup fund, according to the Congress Member’s office.

Her legislation would also assist small business owners, homeowners, and renters forced to move from a Superfund site with a tax deduction of up to $10,000 for relocation expenses, and allow them to apply for Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury and Disaster loans. The bill would call for the SBA to establish a $10,000,000 Disaster Loan pilot program from 2019 to 2023 that would provide direct loans to those forced out of a Superfund location.

The private owners of the Gowanus Station building located at 234 Butler Street could benefit from this bill. They face having their historic property demolished so that an eight million gallon Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) holding tank can be installed in its place (as well as at 242 Nevins and 270 Nevins Street) as part of the EPA’s Gowanus Canal cleanup.

To be eligible for the assistance proposed in Velázquez’s bill, business owners, homeowners, and renters cannot be responsible for the contamination and must have been located at the site prior to its Superfund designation. Both the Gowanus Canal and Greenpoint’s Newtown Creek were designated Superfund sites in 2010.

Click here to learn more about Congress Member Nydia Velázquez’s Superfund Enhancement Act of 2018.