It’s Time For Polluters to Pay

Plus: Poll Says Water Pollution Woes Top of List, Summer of Slime, & More

As the world continues to heat up, so are debates happening about who should pay for pollution clean-up, revoking permits in Cancer Alley, and so much more.

The news is here for you to get informed, and also to consider how you might get involved in your part of the world. Toxins are everywhere.

When’s the last time you checked out how your representatives are voting on the environment or attended your local city council meeting? Get connected! We’ve got so much work to do.

Now on to the latest environmental news I’m watching…

Tax Time for Polluters

Legislators are working to bring back “polluter taxes,” asking polluters to clean up their mess and foot the bill. It’s about as common sense as legislation gets.

Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer has introduced the Superfund Reinvestment Act, which would once again require polluters to pay for the cleanup of toxic and hazardous waste sites throughout the United States.

Quick back story: Superfund is the federal government’s program for cleaning up the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites. Think Love Canal, a neighborhood near Niagara Falls, New York, where the Hooker Chemical Company dumped at least 20,000 tons of waste or the Del Amo site, a 280-acres in Los Angeles, California, where the Del Amo synthetic rubber plant operated from 1943 to 1972, generating and dumping various sludge wastes and wastewaters in unlined pits and evaporation ponds.

From the start of the Superfund program in 1980 until 1995, funds came mostly from taxes on crude oil, imported petroleum products, hazardous chemicals, imported substances that use hazardous chemicals as a feedstock, and on corporate modified alternative minimum taxable income. Those taxes expired, and since 1996, oversight and cleanup of Superfund sites has been largely paid for with our tax dollars. And many clean-ups have been stalled because of funding shortages.

“By renewing the Superfund tax, the industries that had a hand in creating the problem—not taxpayers—will once again be held accountable for cleaning it up,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “More importantly, we can put tens of thousands of people to work by investing in the cleanup of these polluted sites. It’s a common-sense and long-overdue way to benefit the environment, local communities, and the economy.”

The Superfund Reinvestment Act would, among other things:

  • Restore Superfund taxes at inflation adjusted rates, including excise taxes on crude oil or refined oil products, excise taxes on certain chemicals that have hazardous characteristics or may generate hazardous wastes, and a tax based on a corporation’s taxable income if it exceeds $4.7 million.

  • Expand the definition of crude oil to include unconventional crude, such as tar sands and oil shale.

  • Ensure that money from the Trust Fund is only spent on Superfund cleanup.

About 53 million Americans live within three miles of a Superfund site, including 17 percent of all U.S. children under the age of five. Plus, more than 9,000 federally subsidized housing properties sit within a mile of a Superfund site.

New research shows that living near a toxic waste site can decrease life expectancy, so fully funding these clean-up efforts can’t come soon enough.

Are you wondering about your town? You can search for your community here.

Speaking of Contamination…

A recent Gallup poll found that U.S. adults are seriously worried about water pollution, as those surveyed listed it as their primary environmental concern.

DUH, my inbox could have told you that!

In Gallup’s 2021 Environment survey about 53 percent of people were very worried about water pollution found in lakes and rivers, while 56 percent were concerned about pollutants in drinking water. And not that it’s a competition, but water quality topped these other environmental challenges on the survey: global warming, air pollution, animal species extinction, and tropical rain forest loss.

No More Pollution Wanted in “Cancer Alley”

Activists are calling on the Biden administration to revoke a federal permit that would allow a $9.4 billion petrochemical plant to begin construction in St. James Parish, Louisiana, part of a corridor known as “Cancer Alley,” according to reporting in The Hill.

Cancer Alley is already home to 150 chemical plants and oil refineries along the Mississippi River that spans 85 miles where residents have some of the highest rates of cancer and respiratory problems in the country.  

The proposed facility that Taiwanese plastics-company Formosa wants to build would be the largest in North America and double the level of toxic emissions in the area.

Rise St. James, a local faith-based grassroots organization, found in 2019 that the location for the construction is on the burial grounds of enslaved people.

“Formosa Plastics chose St. James because we are poor, because we are black, and because no one would speak up,” said Sharon Lavigne, the founder and president of RISE St. James in an article.

To help raise awareness, activists from the Sunrise Movement have embarked on a 400-mile march that will follow the paths of different environmental disasters from New Orleans to Houston. 

If the plant is built, it could destroy surrounding wetlands and emit sky-high rates of ethylene oxide, a carcinogenic compound, according to research.

Join the fight at:

Another Summer of Slime in Florida?

Lake Okeechobee is covered in blue-green algae, again—and earlier than usual thanks to warmer temps. NOAA imagery recently showed a bloom about 300 square miles in size.

Environmental groups, including the Calusa Waterkeeper, Friends of the Everglades, and more than a dozen others signed a letter to Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, asking him to declare a state of emergency for communities impacted by what appears to be a growing toxic blue-green algae outbreak, as well as a deadly red tide that’s been lingering in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Based on what’s happening on the lake, we’re potentially ahead of the situation in 2018,” said Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani in a statement. “It’s already in the lake and the red tide has been in the back bays and along the coasts since last November. It just doesn’t seem to want to recede. It’s killing fish and I’ve heard of some sea turtles. So we think now is the time to get ahead and move water south.”

These co-occurring toxic blooms stink of exactly what happened in 2018 and 2019. The summer of 2018 was the lost summer across the state, as hundreds of tons of dead fish and other marine wildlife washed ashore. People became sick. Tourists flocked elsewhere, and the economy suffered.

In 2018 Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce reported economic losses of approximately $47 million from July through October and the City of Sanibel removed more than 425 tons of dead marine life from Sanibel’s beaches, at a cost of $1.6 million.

The groups stated in their letter, “Hurricane season begins June 1, bringing rainfall and rising temperatures that are conducive to the growth of toxic algae blooms. Now is the time to act.”

Take action to prevent toxic algae here.

What’s happening in your world? Let me know in the comments below!