New Administration Re-thinks Bush-Era Exemptions for Hazardous Waste

Targets loopholes that lift protections against exposure to hazardous waste


Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said today it is reversing course on two Bush-era exemptions for hazardous waste, issued in the waning days of the former administration.

The first rule, which EPA indicated it was planning to toss out altogether, allows polluters to burn dangerous waste without complying with hazardous waste laws. The so-called ‘comparable fuels’ rule, which was requested by the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Chemistry Council, would have allowed more than 100,000 tons of hazardous waste to be burned without federal hazardous waste protections. Read more about this rule (PDF).

The second rule, which EPA committed to reevaluate this summer, deregulates 1.5 million tons of hazardous waste generated by chemical, steel, and other manufacturers. More than 5,000 facilities are expected to take advantage of the loophole, which relieves companies handling the most dangerous substances regulated by EPA from complying with requirements intended to protect human health and the environment. The agency said it plans to hold a public meeting in June before deciding whether to keep the so-called ‘definition of hazardous waste’ rule or scrap it. Read more about this rule (PDF).

The nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, which challenged both rules in court, welcomed the move by EPA. The following statement is from Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans:

“We’re heartened by today’s news. It’s an important step forward in restoring much-needed safeguards for communities living near these hazardous waste sites. These dangerous exemptions, which are still in force, are a sore reminder of the Bush administration’s assault on our nation’s environmental protections. The last administration’s attitude was ‘if you can burn it, or call it by another name, it’s not a hazardous waste.’ We’re pleased that the Obama administration and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson see the danger in this line of thinking. We hope EPA will quickly consign both of these policies to the reject pile once and for all.” 

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