SUPERFUND:

Obama proposes slight cuts for cleanups

President Obama proposed light cuts today in the fiscal 2012 budget for U.S. EPA's hazardous-waste cleanup program.

The $1.236 billion the president is requesting for Superfund is slightly down from both the amount Obama requested in his 2011 budget plan -- $1.293 billion -- and what Congress passed in the continuing resolution, $1.307 billion.

The small cuts in Superfund are part of a broader effort by the administration to reduce the federal budget deficit. Overall, Obama targeted EPA with significant cuts, requesting about $1.3 billion less than what is estimated to be spent in the 2011 continuing resolution (See related story).

It's important to note that actual Superfund spending in fiscal 2011 is still up in the air, as Republicans are currently renegotiating the continuing resolution for the second half of this year. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Experts said the cuts shouldn't hamper Superfund's progress. The program's annual budget has ranged from $1 billion to $1.3 billion since its creation in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980.

"It's still in the right ballpark," said J. Winston Porter, Superfund assistant administrator during the Reagan administration.

Porter also noted that the slight cuts being proposed by Obama may be a result of the Superfund finishing site cleanups.

"Every time you check," he said, "there are fewer sites left to do. As the EPA finishes sites, they haven't seemed to be reducing the budget."

There were 1,280 Superfund sites as of last November. Sixty-two sites are waiting to be added, while nearly 347 sites have been removed.

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