The Sierra Club (search) has launched a new series of ads charging the Bush administration with failing to make corporations clean up abandoned toxic waste sites.

The ads, running on television or radio in four cities, blame Bush for not supporting reinstatement of the so-called "polluter pays" tax that funded expensive cleanup of federal Superfund sites. The tax levied on the manufacturers of toxic chemicals expired in 1995 and the Superfund, which boasted $3.6 billion in reserve at its peak, ran out of money last year.

Sierra Club spokeswoman Annie Strickler said that forces ordinary taxpayers — not polluters — to foot the bill for cleaning up some of the worst toxic waste sites. There are nearly 1,300 Superfund National Priority (search) sites in the United States.

"The advertising is just an effort to make people more aware of these Bush administration policies that threaten their health and safety," Strickler said. "If President Bush supported the polluter pays principle, we could get the money back into this polluter trust fund and the money wouldn't be coming from taxpayer revenues," she said.

Television ads began running Monday in Philadelphia, Detroit and Tampa, Fla., and a radio ad debuted Tuesday in Omaha, Neb. The ads highlight several toxic waste cleanup sites: the former Velsicol Chemical Co. plant site in St. Louis, Mich.; the Franklin Slag Pile in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia; the Coronet Industries plant site in Plant City, Fla.; and the lead contamination site in eastern Omaha.

The Bush administration has said it will not support the tax until Superfund is overhauled. Critics of the tax are concerned that it's not linked to a company's actual environmental record.

Jim Dyke, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee (search), said the ads are motivated by partisan bias rather than concern for the environment.

"The people of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Nebraska may be surprised to learn that the Sierra Club is a political organization whose top priority for 2004 is not protecting the environment but working to defeat Republicans and President Bush," Dyke said.

The Sierra Club, the nation's largest and oldest environmental organization, ran ads earlier this year before Bush's annual State of the Union address, highlighting what it claims is Bush's dismal record on policies involving toxic mercury.

The environmental group also spent at least $350,000 on ads last year in New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada and Nebraska criticizing Bush's environmental record.

Also this week, the activist group Moveon.org will release a television and print ad campaign critical of the president's plan to give power plants more time to install new technology aimed at reducing mercury pollution.

The TV ad will feature a poison symbol morphing into a happy face on a child's lunchbox to highlight the dangers children face from mercury emissions. In December, the Bush administration placed mercury under a less stringent category of the Clean Air Act (search), so it can be regulated using a program allowing companies to buy pollution credits from other plants.