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May 18, 1998

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When it comes to cleaning up toxic waste, now is the time to clean up our act. We need to strengthen families and communities, not hold them back.

-Vice President Al Gore
May 18, 1998

Today, in remarks made at the White House, Vice President Al Gore calls on Congress to restore $650 million in critical toxic cleanup funds for Fiscal Year 1999. The funds were approved in advance on the condition that the Superfund law be authorized by May 15. But that deadline passed -- and the funds were lost -- because Congress insisted on changing the law to benefit polluters. Loss of the funds will delay cleanup at up to 171 Superfund sites across the country.

Living with a toxic legacy.One in four Americans, including 10 million children below the age of 12, live within four miles of a Superfund site. Many of these toxic waste sites pose serious health and environmental risks to surrounding communities. The Administration has made tremendous progress in revamping the Superfund program to speed up toxic waste cleanups. More than twice as many cleanups were completed in the past five years as were completed in the preceding twelve.

Leading The Fight For A Cleaner America. Last year, the Administration proposed, and Congress approved, a $650 million cleanup fund increase in advance for Fiscal Year 1999. The increase was contingent on a Superfund reauthorization bill being signed by May 15. The Administration proposed reforms to:

  • Strengthen the Superfund law;
  • Reduce costly litigation; and
  • Ensure that those responsible for contamination clean it up.
Standing Firm Against Bad Reform. The Administration is committed to environmental cleanup, and is standing firm against Congressional proposals that weaken cleanup standards, compromise the "polluter pays" principle and reopen litigation in cleanup cases that already had been settled.

A Call For Action. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency releases a list of Superfund sites where cleanup is slated to begin or be completed in fiscal year 1999. Without the $650 million being withheld by Congress, cleanup will not start at up to 120 of these sites, and will not be completed at up to 51 others. The Administration is proposing a budget amendment to fully restore these critical cleanup funds with no strings attached. The Vice President calls on Congress to approve the funds so we can keep working to restore the economic and environmental health of our communities.

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