"We would love to be able to clean up more sites," said Randy Deitz, an attorney and EPA adviser.
"There has been no decision not to clean sites up.Nothing could be further from the truth." Deitz
said the slowdown has nothing to do with the depletion of the Superfund Trust Fund
, which has dwindled from $3 billion in 1995 to an estimated $28 million in 2003.
About 70 percent of cleanups are paid for directly by the companies that made the mess.And while the trust fund is supposed to pay for the rest, Deitz
said Congress has set aside enough money to pay for them even while the trust fund has been dwindling.
The chemical industry funded the trust fund through a special tax until 1995, when it expired.Clinton never could persuade Congress to reauthorize the tax, and Bush hasn't even tried.
Democrats and environmentalists see a big connection between that fact and the lagging pace of the cleanups.
"They just reject the polluter-pays principle," said Rep.
The Bush administration has essentially maintained silence on the tax issue, but Deitz
said the administration may think about reinstituting the polluter tax next year, now that the Superfund
has nearly run dry.In addition, the EPA
is studying ways to make the pace of cleanups more steady.
"Certainly it's an issue that's not going to go away," Deitz