From the Office of Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), 12/8/2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last night, U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) successfully included a provision in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to require the Department of Defense to take more responsibility for its role in contributing to, as well as cleaning up, Superfund sites, including the Portland Harbor site. 

The Department of Defense used what is now the Portland Harbor Superfund site for ship building and ship scrapping throughout World Wars I and II and up until the Korean War. 

“Everyone responsible for creating toxic Superfund sites, including the Portland Harbor Superfund site, has a role to play in cleaning it up,” said Blumenauer. “Requiring the Department of Defense to finally take more responsibility for the role it plays in creating these sites, as well as proactively working with the community, should help expedite cleaning up the toxic consequences of military activities.” 

73 million people—over one in five Americans—live within three miles of a Superfund site, including 28 percent of all people of color in the United States. 

Blumenauer’s provision will require the Department of Defense to take a new action for the first time: to produce thorough plans describing the Department’s contributions to Superfund sites, as well as steps to clean up those sites, including any completed or planned actions, outreach with affected communities, and cooperation with relevant agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The win comes on the heels of the passage of Blumenauer’s legislation to reinstate a tax on hazardous chemical companies to fund Superfund cleanups, which was included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Blumenauer’s consistent advocacy to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urging him to address this issue. Blumenauer also secured a provision to reinstate a tax on oil and gas corporations to help pay for Superfund cleanup efforts in the House-passed Build Back Better Act, which is awaiting a vote before the full Senate.

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“The Department of Defense has never really acknowledged their responsibility,” he said. “They haven’t put any resources into it and they’re not setting aside anything to help us and if the federal government doesn’t acknowledge and undertake its responsibility that means that it’s a lot higher cost for the rest of the people that can’t avoid it.”