Council opposes Assembly Superfund plan, citing its fees, lack of critical reforms
A new Assembly plan to refinance the state's environmental Superfund program would substantially increase business fees without enacting any of the Superfund or brownfield-redevelopment reforms needed to balance environmental and economic needs, The Council's environmental specialist said. The Council strongly opposes the proposal.
"The higher fees proposed would overwhelmingly affect upstate manufacturers," said Ken Pokalsky, director of environmental and regulatory affairs. "That seems unwise when New York's existing Superfund fees already exceed the maximum possible in most states, and many policymakers, including the Assembly, are concerned about how we can reinvigorate the upstate economy."
The Assembly bill: The Assembly's Superfund bill would:
- Authorize bonding to refinance Superfund. The bill text does not specify an amount, but an Assembly press release says the Assembly wants to bond $200 million a year for 10 years.
- Implement the Governor's proposed hazardous waste-program fee surcharges. However, income from the fees would not be used for "pay as you go" funding of the Superfund program, but rather to repay bonds. The Council has previously expressed strong opposition to the Governor's fee proposal.
- Include "hazardous substance sites" in Superfund, significantly increasing the program's applicability and cost.
Superfund fees in New York: The Business Council recently sent information to the Assembly documenting how high New York's environmental fees already are in relation to other states'. The March 26 letter cited "An Analysis of State Superfund Programs" Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Law Institute (ELI).
"New York's annual cleanup expenditures far exceed that of most states, and New York's existing hazardous waste-related fees greatly exceed the Superfund-related business fees imposed in virtually every other state," Pokalsky wrote in that letter. Enacting fees at the proposed level "would dramatically increase New York's outlier status on this cost-of-doing business factor."
The ELI analysis showed that only two states, New York and New Jersey, spent more than $50 million on remedial programs in 1998.
"In contrast, among the 42 states providing expenditure data, the average state spending on cleanups was $12.8 million, while the median spending level was just $2.3 million," Pokalsky wrote. "Two-thirds of all states spent $10 million or less on remediation programs."
The Council's recommendations on Superfund refinancing and reform: The Business Council believes that the permanent refinancing of state Superfund should be part of a comprehensive reform package that includes a fairer funding mechanism, reforms in cleanup standards, and liability relief for parties that clean contaminated sites.
Specifically, The Council believes that:
- Equitable funding: Superfund costs should be distributed among all taxpayers, not just the business community. Funds for Superfund should come from the state's General Fund, to which all taxpayers (including businesses) contribute. The Council strongly opposes the creation of significant new taxes and/or fees on business to refinance the Superfund.
- Use-based cleanup standards: Superfund should adopt new, more efficient cleanup standards that are based on the intended use of a site
- Liability relief: Parties that did not cause contamination but that clean a contaminated site should receive liability relief, with strictly limited opportunities to reopen these cases.
- Incentives for brownfield redevelopment: The Superfund refinancing and reform program should include specific requirements, timetables and incentives to encourage the privately financed redevelopment of "brownfields."