Tucked into the EPA budget proposal the Obama administration revealed yesterdays are plans to reinstate the Superfund taxes which expired in 1995 as a way to partially offset the $2.7 billion in increased spending at the EPA. The administration estimates that the taxes will generate more than $1 billion per year.
The original Superfund taxes were actually three different taxes, a petroleum tax of 9.7 cents per barrel, a tax on chemical feedstocks, and a so called Corporate Environmental Income Tax of 0.12% on corporate income in excess of $2 million. Historically 39% percent of the revenue came from the petroleum tax, 18% from the chemical feedstock tax, and 43% from the Corporate Environmental Income Tax.
Environmentalists like to tout that the Superfund taxes are an example of the “polluter pays” principle. However, the reality of the superfund program is that is supposed to clean up abandoned hazardous waste sites and companies paying the petroleum and chemical feedstock taxes now may have had nothing to do with an industrial site abandoned 20 years ago. Even more egregious is the Corporate Environmental Income Tax, which actual raises the most revenue, as it implicitly assumes that any company with enough income must be a polluter, and therefore should be forced to pay.