Toxic Debts and the Superfund Dilemma

By Harold C. Barnett

352 pp., 6 x 9

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4435-9
    Published: March 1994
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6024-3
    Published: November 2000

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In 1980, with the passage of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, Congress created the Superfund as a mechanism to clean up the toxic legacy of the industrial and chemical revolutions. Over a decade later, the consensus is that the program has failed: too much has been spent and too little accomplished. Harold Barnett unravels the history of this failure, examining the economic and political factors that contributed to it and suggesting policy changes necessary to create a viable cleanup program. Barnett argues that the Superfund has failed because of conflict over who will pay the toxic debt and the impact of this conflict on interdependent funding and enforcement decisions at state, regional, and national levels. He argues that the inability of legislators and regulatory agencies to take effective and timely action is related to the economic and political power of major corporate polluters. Spanning the Reagan and Bush administrations, the book highlights the ongoing conflict between deregulatory policies and environmental programs.

Originally published in 1994.

A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.

About the Author

Harold C. Barnett is professor of economics at the University of Rhode Island.
For more information about Harold C. Barnett, visit the Author Page.


"Barnett's excellent analysis of the Superfund program should be read by all those involved in the ongoing reauthorization debate."--Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

"Barnett provocatively and convincingly argues that the political conflict that engulfs hazardous waste clean-up policy in the U.S. leads less often to effective compromise than it does to contradiction-ridden public policies that short both justice and social welfare. . . . This book should be of significant interest to environmental policy makers and scholars in environmental economics, environmental law, political science, public policy, and sociology."--Peter C. Yeager, Boston University