Study Attacks Loophole For Municipalities

Washington, DC, March 20, 1998 — Exempting municipalities from Superfund liability will hinder real environmental reform according to a new study released by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) today. The study, Privileged Polluters: The Case Against Exempting Municipalities from Superfund, by David Kopel, argues that municipalities should not be exempted from Superfund. Rather, Superfund should be reformed so that it is fairer and it actually achieves its goals.

“Superfund is widely regarded as the greatest failure of all federal environmental laws,” according to Kopel. “Modifications to Superfund liability should at least be based on the scientific dangers of various types of waste, and not on which politically favored entities happen to be responsible for them.”

“Rather than advocating comprehensive reform, many municipalities and local governments are pushing for a special exemption from CERCLA,” Kopel writes. Exempting municipalities will do nothing to further environmental cleanup and will obstruct more meaningful Superfund reform. This makes the proposed exemption “anti-environmental.”

“The argument for a municipal exemption is, at bottom, based on the premise that local governments should receive special treatment because government is virtuous and private business is not,” Kopel argues. Local government complaints about Superfund are shared by all who are subject to the law’s extreme liability regime, Kopel explains. Rather than exempt politically powerful interests, Congress should scrap Superfund altogether in favor of a more equitable and environmentally sound approach to the cleanup of hazardous waste sites.

CEI has long called for the complete reform of this draconian and anti-environmental law. A September 1997 CEI study, Superfund XVII: The Pathology of Environmental Policy, by James DeLong, critiqued current Superfund proposals, arguing that meaningful reform must start with a complete overhaul. This would repeal the current law, transfer cleanup responsibilities to the states, and establish transition rules for sites already in the Superfund process.

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan research and advocacy institute dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. For more information or to obtain a copy of either study, contact Emily McGee at 202-331-1010.