Velazquez proposes ‘Superfund Tax’ to combat Trump EPA budget cuts

Trust would create tax deductions for displaced local business

May 4, 2018 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Superfund Enhancement Act of 2018, a bill proposed by U.S. Rep Nydia Velazquez, would allocate a tax deduction of up to $10,000 for local small businesses that are forced to relocate due to Superfund cleanups. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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A Brooklyn congresswoman whose district includes three federal Superfund sites is calling for a new tax on all chemical and large oil companies to fund the cleanup of some toxic locations.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez’s proposed Superfund Enhancement Act would use the revenue to secure cleanup of so-called orphan sites, where the parties responsible for the mess cannot be identified or are unable to pay for the cleanup.

Velazquez (D-Gowanus) said she was motivated by President Donald Trump’s proposed 26-percent budget cut to the Environmental Protection Agency that would reduce the Superfund budget by $327 million.

“We’re living in an era when environmental programs like Superfund are under constant budgetary threat from the Trump administration,” Velazquez told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Anything we can do to draw more funds into the Superfund program will ensure the initiative’s long-term solvency.”

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The two main Superfund sites in Brooklyn — the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek — are not orphaned locations, but Velazquez said her bill would result in a “more robustly funded” program for all sites.

“We never want to see EPA ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul,’” said Velazquez, whose three-borough district includes an orphan site in Queens.

Nydia Velazquez Photo courtesy of Velazquez's office

Congress passed a similar tax on chemical and oil companies in 1980, but allowed it to expire in 1995, though it raised roughly $1.25 billion annually, according to the federal Government Accountability Office. Since the tax terminated, taxpayers have paid more than $21 billion on cleanups, according to the Washington Post.

The bill will likely face severe opposition from the chemical and oil industries, which will likely fight additional taxes. The Trump administration has also favored reducing environmental burdens on large corporations. No hearings have been set for Velazquez’s bill, which was announced on Friday.

The bill would also award tax deduction of up to $10,000 for small businesses that are forced to relocate due to the cleanup process — displacement that is already happening, locals said.

“This would definitely help in our situation as far as finding a new place because I’ve owned this property for over 40 years and now to go out and actually have to purchase or rent a piece of property is very expensive,” said Salvatore Tagliavia, who operates a sanitation repair company near the Gowanus Canal and is being displaced.

He said EPA is not offering any financial help.

“I’m a small business owner so the funds are limited,” he said, claiming he might be forced to go out of business. “Anything that I would get from the government would be a great help in any way possible.”

The Gowanus Alliance, the Gowanus Canal Superfund Community Advisory Group and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy have endorsed Velazquez’s bill.

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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