The story of Superfund's evolution demonstrates the linkage between program failure and conflict over who pays the toxic debt. The goal of this chapter is to highlight this linkage within the political economic framework discussed in chapter 3 and, against this background, to consider the feasibility of a negotiated solution to the Superfund dilemma.
Superfund has imposed substantial costs on major polluting industries and their insurers, federal and state taxpayers, and a growing cast of third parties while leaving hazardous waste site host communities exposed to health and environmental threats. Although no one has explicitly willed this outcome, conflict among interested parties has nevertheless produced failure.
Industries targeted to pay the toxic debt have made concerted efforts to limit their tax and liability burdens. They have taken their efficiency and equity arguments to the White House and to Congress with some success. They have exerted pressure on EPA to draft less burdensome cleanup and enforcement strategies and have used their political and economic muscle to resist many agency initiatives and actions. When all else fails, they have acted to pass enforcement costs onto third parties.
The perceived economic consequences of substantial cleanup and transaction costs has magnified the political leverage of polluting industries. Influential voices in Congress have advocated limits on Superfund in the interest of domestic growth and international competitiveness. The Reagan administration, with its faith in the benefits of deregulation, had emphasized these