A Precedent for Obama’s BP Involvement

Rachel Maddow used Obama’s response plan to the BP oil spill to contrast with what a “real liberal” would do with the crisis. The Republican Party drew up a talking point portraying the plan as a “Chicago-style shakedown.” Yet few references have been made to the disaster response that Obama’s escrow fund most clearly resembles: Love Canal, and CERCLA.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, was enacted by Congress on December 11, 1980. This law created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and provided broad Federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. Over five years, $1.6 billion was collected and the tax went to a trust fund for cleaning up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. CERCLA:

  • established prohibitions and requirements concerning closed and abandoned hazardous waste sites;
  • provided for liability of persons responsible for releases of hazardous waste at these sites; and
  • established a trust fund to provide for cleanup when no responsible party could be identified</blockquote>

It was cosponsored by John Culver (D-NJ) and James Fiorino (D-IA). It passed the House by 351-23.

The analogy is imperfect, but both involve a long-term tax-based fund designed to pay for future “Acts of God.”

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