Washington, D.C. — Earthjustice on behalf of Idaho Conservation League, Earthworks, Sierra Club, Amigos Bravos, Great Basin Resource Watch, and Communities for a Better Environment filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to issue key rules mandated by the Superfund Act (the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA).
The rules that EPA has failed to issue would help prevent major spills of hazardous substances. For example, the Freedom Industries chemical spill in West Virginia that left hundreds of thousands of people without safe drinking water due to leaks from aging, corroded tanks could have been avoided if EPA had put these rules in place long ago, as the law requires.
These rules would also make sure polluters pay to clean up their own messes, instead of skipping town and leaving the cost to the public. For example, cleanup efforts at the Bunker Hill Superfund site in Idaho have been ongoing for decades, and the cleanup has been repeatedly delayed because of lack of funding. The primary responsible party for the site, the Asarco mining company, declared bankruptcy and left the taxpayers to foot most of the cleanup bill, which is estimated to be around $2 billion. The delayed cleanup means that nearby communities are exposed to high levels of lead and other pollutants, and the Center for Disease Control has measured lead blood levels in children that are above the acceptable maximum.
The groups’ lawsuit charges that a 30-year delay in issuing legally required rules to ensure that parties responsible for hazardous substance pollution bear the cost of cleanup is an unreasonable delay.