Council rejects notion of superfund "crisis," opposes broad new taxes


Director of Communications

New York's "superfund" faces no immediate shortage of funds, and lawmakers should reject calls for broad new business taxes disguised as "polluter-pays" taxes, The Council's environmental expert testified March 16.

"If the state 'superfund' is facing an immediate financial crisis, we should be so lucky that all our crises are as benign," Ken Pokalsky told the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee.

"There is no current superfund financing crisis. Claims to the contrary would have to be considered as being influenced more by the political calendar than fiscal reality."

The State Superfund Management Board (SSMB) has said that $390 million in uncommitted funds from the 1986 bond act is still available, Pokalsky noted. And it concludes that bond funds will last through Fiscal 1999 and well into Fiscal 2000.

Pokalsky also rejected claims that New York is wavering from its "polluter pays" principle. Responsible parties are paying "their fair share of remedial costs and more," he said.

He cited Department of Environmental Conservation data showing that responsible parties have spent $1.6 billion at state superfund sites in New York and another $900 million at federal superfund sites within the state.

Pokalsky said that the "polluter pay" concept is fundamentally fair but would be corrupted by advocates who have proposed $1.9 billion in new taxes on companies doing business in New York to clean contamination caused by other parties.

"This isn't a 'polluter-pays' approach, it is a 'let's-tax-business' approach, and to say otherwise is disingenuous at best," he testified.

Superfund reform must precede refinancing, he said. For example, cleanup standards should be changed to risk-based standards. In this approach, the level of cleanup required is designed to reflect the actual risk posed by the pollutant in question.

"By eliminating a large degree of uncertainty in the program regarding current and future financial liability," he said, "these changes should expedite cleanups and bring additional private resources into the state's remedial programs - reducing the need for additional state spending.