Funding gaps plague EPA Superfund program

The Environmental Protection Administration's Superfund cleanup program faced a $174.9 million shortfall in fiscal year 2003, the second year in a row that the agency's inspector general has identified funding gaps in the hazardous waste program, prompting quick condemnations of the Bush administration from House and Senate Democrats.

In a report issued Tuesday, the agency's inspector general wrote that, "limited funding prevented EPA from beginning construction at all sites or providing additional funds needed to address sites in a manner believed necessary by [EPA] regional officials."

Democrats say the shortfall has also slowed the cleanup of at least 29 Superfund sites in 17 states. The funding shortfall "means increased risks to human health and the environment -- risks and costs that the taxpayers are covering while the polluters get off scot-free," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in a statement.

Boxer requested the report last July along with House Energy and Commerce ranking member John Dingell, D-Mich., Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif., and Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member James Jeffords, I-Vt.

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