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Closing a Dangerous Hazardous Waste Loophole

Hazardous waste barrel.

The DSW rule stripped federal oversight of recyclers who handle 1.5 million tons of hazardous waste generated by steel, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies each year.

Brandon Bourdages / Shutterstock

Case Overview

In a last-minute giveaway to polluters in 2008, the Bush administration passed the Definition of Solid Waste (“DSW”) rule, which stripped federal oversight of recyclers who handle 1.5 million tons of hazardous waste generated by steel, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies each year. With one of its last strokes of the pen, the Bush EPA excused thousands of companies from complying with rules that protect public health and the environment, despite a wealth of evidence that revealed the effects of deregulation—including hundreds of cases where hazardous waste recycling resulted in contamination from hazardous wastes. The change was made despite protests from state environmental regulators, the public, environmental groups, and so me responsible corporations.

A lawsuit filed in 2009 by the Sierra Club prompted changes by the Obama EPA. On June 30, 2011, EPA published proposed changes to the DSW rule narrowing some of the very broad exemptions from responsible storage and handling requirements that safeguard public health and the environment. In addition, the EPA completed the first environmental justice analysis of a regulatory proposal in EPA’s history. Bottom line: while the proposed rule restores some vital protections, there are additional improvements that must be made to protect communities from exposure to hazardous waste.

Case ID

1837

Case Updates

June 26, 2014 | Letter

Definition of Solid Waste Rule Letter to Obama Administration

195 public interest organizations and individuals from 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, write to express united support for a final Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) rule that protects health, environment and livelihood from hazardous waste released from recycling operations.