Funding the Superfund – The Washington Post

A sign on a door of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Regarding the Sept. 21 news article “Taxpayers bear most Superfund oversight, cleanup costs”:

A major challenge for Superfund cleanups is the failure to reauthorize Superfund taxes that expired in 1995, which caused the program to rely on annual budget appropriations for federally funded cleanups. As the Trump administration has proposed dramatic funding cuts, the lack of a tax threatens the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct cleanups in a timely manner.

The article said that companies responsible for the contamination are paying “little to nothing” to clean up sites. On the contrary, through 2015, EPA enforcement had achieved commitments by polluting companies estimated at more than $35 billion to do cleanup work under the Superfund program. Historically, each dollar invested in EPA civil enforcement has returned an average of about $8 in cleanup by responsible parties. If the administration wants to speed up cleanup of Superfund sites, as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has said, it should propose more, not less, funding for enforcement.

Elliott Gilberg, Washington

The writer is a former director of Superfund enforcement for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The burden on taxpayers to pay for oversight and cleanup costs has been erroneously placed. Why should the taxpayers be left holding the bag, when the government-owned corporations such as the Defense Plant Corporation and Metal Reserve Corporation that operated during World War II were insured under WWII-era commercial general and contractual liability insurance policies?

Government contractors were required to carry public liability coverage and to name the United States as an assured. The costs for premiums were reimbursable under the operating contracts. Many of the top Fortune 500 companies long ago successfully sued and received settlement proceeds for environmental claims and Superfund cleanup costs from insurers that provided coverage under comprehensive general liability and other liability policies — including WWII-era policies in which the government may have been named as an insured.

As far as I know, the government has never initiated its own claim under any of its own policies or under any of the former contractors’ policies. Superfund cleanup is a burden that taxpayers should never have to bear while there is potential insurance recovery money on the table.

Terri Oguz, Fairfax

The writer is an environmental investigator.

Police commit shameful acts – Brownsville Herald: Letters To The Editor


Baltimore police officers received National Shame Award.

A string of police-citizen acts of misconduct publicized daily has thrust American policing into the center of debate for reform. Baltimore police officers recently gained a national “shame award” over a video showing an office planting drugs to frame an innocent person while other officers watched.

Based on information from other officers across the United States, it is apparent that planting evidence is a “trick of the trade and a routine activity.” An officer in Palm Beach, Fla., admitted that he and his colleagues “plant evidence almost every day” to deal with “difficult citizens.”

Planting evidence is known among NYPD officers as “flaking” and one former officer agreed that “it was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators.” He went on to say that planting evidence is “one of the consequences of the war on drugs, that police officers are pressured to make large numbers of arrests and it’s easy to plant evidence on innocent people;” hence “(t)he drugs war inevitably leads to crooked policing and quotas further incentivize planting of evidence.”

In addition, officers who commit this crime felt that planting evidence would get someone they knew was a drug dealer off of the street, and they also wanted to pad their arrest/conviction records so they would be allowed to take the examination for a higher rank.

Fortunately, good police officers outnumber bad ones, and generally, the police cannot police itself, not when even the president of United States advised officers “please don’t be too nice” to suspects.

Society is answerable to the kind of police it chooses to have, whether it be by deliberation, power struggle or total neglect. The fact remains, however, that police misconduct is an issue of great concern.

Although the city of Minneapolis tried to implement the “individual officer occupational liability insurance” proposal and the Minnesota state Supreme Court struck it down, that should not be the end of it.

I created this proposal more than a decade ago, and its implementation is long overdue. Officers should be required to purchase and maintain “occurrence trigger” occupational liability insurance to deter misconduct.

Dr. Noel Otu

Criminologist, UTRGV