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Booker, Menendez: Make Polluters Pay [AUDIO]

Both of New Jersey’s United States Senators are stressing the importance of the Environmental Protection Agency‘s Superfund program.

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Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker were both in South Kearny on Tuesday to visit the Syncon Resin Superfund site, asking for “Polluter Pays” measures that will go after polluting industries in lieu of taxing citizens.

The EPA’s Superfund Trust Fund is used to pay for remediation of toxic sites when the original owners are unable to pay, as the result of bankruptcy for example. The fund was originally paid for through a tax paid by businesses. However, it was allowed to lapse, and since then the fund has been struggling to stay alive.

“The fund now relies on annual appropriations from Congress, which really means you and I are paying for the legacy of failures of the past,” Menendez said.

The event came in advance of a hearing of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee, of which Booker is the chair. The bill to instate a Superfund tax was initially proposed by late Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

As for the original bill, it was enacted during the presidency of Jimmy Carter and reauthorized by Ronald Reagan. The current bill limits the taxation only to polluting industries such as petroleum and chemical producers.

“This was not controversial years ago; this was a bipartisan urgency of what New Jerseyans should be most upset about,” Booker said.

New Jersey leads the nation in the number of Superfund sites with 114, many of which are located only a few miles from residential communities.

“In New Jersey, it includes 89 sites that have been designated as having unacceptable risk human exposure of hazardous substances,” Booker said.

The junior senator was shocked there was not more concern about the amount of dangerous Superfund sites.

“We now know from research, the most recent study that came out shows that babies born to mothers living within a mile of a Superfund site are more likely to be born with birth defects before a cleanup than after a cleanup,” he said.

While there are thousands living close to Superfund sites, Booker added Superstorm Sandy proved how dangerous toxic land can be.

“When regions like this flood, please understand, the toxins and chemicals are not contained to a Superfund site,” the senator said. “They leech out into our waters and rivers.”

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