Make Polluters Pay: Support a Climate Superfund

When you were a kid I bet someone told you that, “When you make a mess, you help clean it up.” And my guess is – since you are a VPIRG member – that you’ve been doing your best to live by that standard. It’s not always easy, but it’s the responsible and fair thing to do.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the major fossil fuel corporations that have made a mess of our climate did their part to clean up too?

For the first time in decades, there’s a chance that could happen. Will you add your name to the list of Vermonters calling for a Climate Superfund?

There is no longer a credible debate over whether or not human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels to create energy, is warming the planet. It is also clear from historical records that for decades oil companies have known that burning fossil fuels is warming the planet. For example, according to corporate documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times, a leading Exxon researcher told an audience of engineers at a conference in 1991 that greenhouse gases are rising “due to the burning of fossil fuels. Nobody disputes this fact.”[i] The senior Exxon researcher went on to add that there was no doubt those levels would double by the middle of the 21st century.

Unfortunately, he was correct.

Nevertheless, starting in the 1980s, the industry championed climate change denial and opposed regulations to curtail global warming. The industry-funded organizations critical of climate change treaties, undermining public opinion to cast doubt on the science that global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. These super-wealthy corporations’ achievements in bamboozling the public and blocking needed policies have pushed the planet to the brink.

The fossil fuel industry made a huge mess. It’s time to make them pay their fair share of the cleanup costs.

A model for action is the federal Superfund program — the nation’s hazardous waste site remediation law that offers a precedent for a “polluter must pay” model. That program can be emulated today to hold fossil fuel companies responsible for the costs tied to the climate crisis. Under the old Superfund program, polluters were obligated to pay for remediation. Under a new “Climate Superfund” assessing big oil, gas, and coal companies to help pay for the nation’s efforts to address global warming is the fairest and most just way to proceed.

Add your name to ensure that big oil, gas, and coal companies are held liable for the costs of climate change, because if they don’t pay for the cleanup – you and I will. And that’s not fair.

If we expect first graders to clean up after themselves, shouldn’t we demand the same from the largest and most profitable companies on the planet? Join me in calling for a Climate Superfund.


[i] Los Angeles Times, “Special Report: What Exxon knew about global warming’s impact on the Arctic,” https://www.latimes.com/business/la-na-adv-exxon-arctic-20151011-story.html