February 19, 1998
Assembly hearings address possible refinancing of state Superfund
Two Assembly groups are holding hearings on the possible refinancing of the state's environmental "Superfund" this year. The Business Council will testify at one of these hearings. The Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee and the Assembly Commission on Toxic Substances and Hazardous Wastes are jointly sponsoring the hearings to discuss different approaches to refinancing Superfund. Both the Pataki administration and the state Superfund Management Board agree that there is enough in the fund to last through the year 2000, said Ken Pokalsky, The Business Council's expert in environmental issues. One proposal that is being discussed would raise $2.5 billion over more than eight years through $200 million in new fees on business plus $50 million in new general fund spending, Pokalsky said. This approach, which has not been introduced in bill form, was developed and informally floated last year by several environmental groups, Pokalsky said. The proposed fees reportedly would have targeted manufacturers and users of a specific group of chemicals, although what chemicals has not been specified, Pokalsky noted. Although The Business Council has taken no stand on how Superfund might be refinanced, it has voiced strong opposition to any new "Superfund" tax that is not accompanied by substantial program reforms and a broader, fairer sharing of the financial burden for financing the state's cleanup efforts. "Superfund is dealing with a wider variety of sites than was anticipated in 1986, including some non-industrial sites," Pokalsky said. "For this reason, the financial burden should not fall exclusively on industry." The Business Council also favors the use of alternative approaches to clean-up standards, such as the use of risk factors, to shrink the cost but not the effectiveness of cleanups. "New York's cleanup experience has shown that the state can use such alternative approaches as risk factors and liability releases to produce environmentally sound, expedited site cleanups," Pokalsky said.
The state Superfund Management Board has proposed a "pay-as-you-go" approach under which about $80 million a year would be collected. Some of this could come from existing business fees, and no new business fees would be imposed until 2008, Pokalsky noted.