Mark Harris / NBC News

USA - Biden Will Inherit Hundreds of Toxic Waste Superfund Sites, With Climate Threats Looming

The EPA’s program for cleaning up the nation’s hazardous waste dumps has a backlog of sites that lack funding — the largest in 15 years.

This article was published in partnership with Inside Climate News, a nonprofit, independent news outlet that covers climate, energy and the environment, and The Texas Observer, a nonprofit investigative news outlet. This is part 5 of "Super Threats," a series on Superfund sites and climate change.

The uber challenge facing the incoming Biden administration’s Environmental Protection Agency in its oversight of 1,570 hazard waste sites is best summed in a name that’s become synonymous with the daunting task: Superfund.

The “Superfund” started out as a trust fund created by Congress in 1980 to finance cleanups, paid for by billions of dollars in taxes on the chemical and petroleum industries. Congress allowed the tax to expire 25 years ago.

Now, with the trust fund empty, Superfund has become the name of a drastically underfunded federal program responsible for ensuring the industries responsible for these toxic sites do the cleanup, if possible. The EPA shoulders the financial burden using budgeted funds at sites where responsible entities no longer exist or can’t be found.

President-elect Joe Biden will inherit 34 Superfund sites for which no reliable funding for cleanup exists, the largest backlog of “unfunded” sites in 15 years. The backlog has steadily grown under the Trump administration.

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