For Immediate Release
Raviya Ismail, (202) 667-4500, ext. 237
Groups Fight Deregulation of Hazardous Waste
Companies can burn toxic waste without complying with hazardous waste laws
WASHINGTON - Environmental groups are suing
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a Bush administration
rule that will allow more than 100,000 tons a year of hazardous waste
to be burned without regard to regulations that monitor such toxins.
This last-minute rule from the Bush administration redefines
the hazardous waste as "fuel," allowing facilities that generate, store
and transport it to avoid federal requirements for preventing leaks,
spills, and toxic emissions.
Earthjustice is representing the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Sierra Club in their lawsuit.
"Here in Louisiana, we know all about the devastating health effects
that result from exposure to hazardous chemicals," said Marylee Orr,
Executive Director of Louisiana Environmental Action Network
(LEAN). "The whole point of regulating hazardous waste is to provide
communities like ours with some protection against these poisons, and
it is absolutely outrageous that the Bush administration would deprive
us of that protection just to enrich the oil and chemical companies
that generate this waste."
The rule will not only allow facilities that store and transport the
exempted waste to avoid the tracking, permitting, closure and financial
assurance requirements in the Resource Conservation and Recovery
Act. It also will allow the waste to be burned in ordinary boilers and
process heaters instead of facilities designed and permitted to burn
hazardous waste safely.
"This rule is wrongheaded," said Marti Sinclair, chair of the Sierra
Club's Clean Air Team. "Americans are counting on cleaner, greener
fuels, efficiency and alternative fuels to improve our health,
environment, and economy. This Bush-era rule fails on all counts by
allowing sloppy handling and disposal of dirty dangerous wastes. This
lawsuit seeks to put an end to this dead-end gambit."
Hazardous waste often contains extremely dangerous levels of toxic
chemicals, exposure to which can cause cancer, heart, and lung disease,
and other serious health impacts.
This rule allows waste that contains highly toxic chemicals such as
benzene and toluene, both potent carcinogens, to be stored, transported
and burned as fuel without the stringent safeguards imposed on
"I urge the Obama administration to agree with us that this rule is
unlawful," said James Pew, Earthjustice attorney. "It was irresponsible
for the previous administration to pretend that it could make hazardous
waste any less hazardous just by giving it another name."
The Bush administration signed the controversial rule into law on
Dec. 19, 2008, despite the protests of members of Congress and
environmental groups who called on EPA to require further study and
allow additional comment on the environmental records of the facilities
that would handle and burn hazardous waste. This rule is the third of
three midnight regulations from the Bush administration that exempt
various hazardous wastes from regulation. Earthjustice and Sierra Club
are also challenging EPA's redefinition of solid waste, and
Earthjustice is representing both Sierra Club and LEAN in their
challenge of the hazardous waste gasification rule. Through these three
rules the EPA has exempted nearly two million tons of hazardous waste
annually from regulation, increasing human exposure to hundreds of
toxins and carcinogens.
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Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.