Superfund tax revival in infrastructure plan would double levy rates

Author: Janet Miranda

2021/07/29

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US Senate voted to advance the $1.2bn bipartisan infrastructure bill on Wednesday, after it cleared a procedural vote on a bill that contains billions for roads and bridges, electric vehicles and includes a revival of a superfund tax on chemical producers at double the rates in place when superfund taxes expired in 1995.

The bipartisan infrastructure framework proposes superfund excise taxes at twice their prior levels for a $1.211bn/year cost, according to the American Chemistry Council’s latest report.

While the text of the bill has not yet been finalised, the ACC said, that the superfund fees could be imposed to about 42 chemicals that would increase the cost of a variety of consumer goods, including many of the materials needed for infrastructure and climate improvement.

“While we agree on the importance of modernising our nation’s infrastructure and welcome bipartisan efforts toward getting legislation across the finish line, we’re dismayed that Senate lawmakers and the Biden Administration have seen fit to include taxes on materials that serve as building blocks for US manufacturing,” said ACC President and CEO Chris Jahn.

The Superfund program was established in 1980 by Congress to clean up highly contaminated waste sites. To fund the program, a trust fund was established that was financed primarily by a tax on crude oil and certain chemicals.

The authority for these taxes expired in 1995, since then, the fund has been funded largely from The Treasury’s general fund as the superfund trust fund has shrunk considerably since the taxes expired, according to law firm Baker Botts.

Currently there are 1,327 sites that were listed as hazardous waste sites eligible for clean-up, many which were listed over two decades ago. In 2019, only 27 sites were partially or fully deleted from the list.

Lack of funding has delayed the pace of clean-ups, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The following table breaks down the taxes by chemical per tonne before the program expired and proposed tax under the bipartisan infrastructure plan.

Prior Proposed
Chemicals: $4.87 $9.74
Benzene $4.87 $9.74
Butane $4.87 $9.74
Butylene $4.87 $9.74
Toluene $4.87 $9.74
Xylene $4.87 $9.74
Ethylene $4.87 $9.74
Propylene $4.87 $9.74
Butadiene $4.87 $9.74
Chlorine $2.70 $5.40
Sodium Hydroxide (Caustic Soda) $0.28 $0.56
Potassium Hydroxide (Caustic Potash) $0.22 $0.44
Acetylene $4.87 $9.74
Napthalene $4.87 $9.74
Ammonia $2.64 $5.28
Antimony Trioxide $3.41 $6.82
Bromine $4.45 $8.90
Hydrochloric Acid $0.29 $0.58
Hydrogen Fluoride (Hydrofluoric Acid) $4.23 $8.46
Nitric Acid $0.24 $0.48
Phosphorus $4.45 $8.90
Sulfuric Acid $0.26 $0.48
Zinc Chloride $2.22 $4.44
Zinc Sulfate $1.90 $3.80
Metals and Other: 
Antimony $4.45 $8.90
Arsenic $4.45 $8.90
Cadmium $4.45 $8.90
Chromium $4.45 $8.90
Cobalt $4.45 $8.90
Mercury $4.45 $8.90
Nickel $4.45 $8.90

Source: ACC