WASHINGTON - The Chemical Manufacturers Association favors legislation to assure that the federal government spends Superfund money exclusively on waste-site cleanup programs. The Washington-based group last week released a poll by Charlton Research Co. of San Francisco, noting nearly three-fourths of those questioned agree that Superfund money should not be diverted to deficit reduction or other government programs. The random telephone survey, taken of 800 people during the April 20-23 Earth Day weekend, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
The poll was released at a time when the Environmental Protection Agency is considering a proposal to reduce the budget and staff of the Superfund program by $295 million and 1,000 employees - 25 percent of its work force - by 2000.
At the same time, EPA has announced an initiative to move responsibility and administration of Superfund cleanups to the states. Both proposals are considered alternatives to proposals in Congress to reduce or terminate Superfund programs.
U.S. Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, has conducted hearings as chairman of the House Com-merce, Trade and Hazardous Materials subcommittee seeking review of EPA's Superfund site selection process. House action on Superfund, including issues such as the cleanup liability of a site's previous owners, is expected within two weeks, with Senate action in mid-July.
The Clinton administration is asking Congress to approve $1.5 billion for Superfund in the 1996 federal budget. The proposal would cut that figure to $1.375 billion over five years, which the agency claims will save $295 million over that period.
CMA contends Superfund has collected $16.1 billion in direct revenues, fines, penalties and costs recovered by the EPA since the program's 1980 founding.
However, nearly $3 billion of that ``originally intended for cleaning up waste sites has been used for deficit reduction and to offset the costs of other federal programs,'' the association said.