For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice, (406) 579-9844
Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 221
Vernice Miller-Travis, Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, (301) 537-2115

U.S. EPA Will Review Loophole That Stripped Regulation of Dangerous Hazardous Waste

Rule deregulated 1.5 million tons of toxic waste

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to revisit a loophole
that stripped federal oversight of companies that handle 1.5 million
tons of hazardous waste each year. The loophole allows any company that
claims to recycle hazardous waste to opt out of safety and inspection
requirements. Facilities with alarming records of environmental damage
were quick to take advantage of this Bush-era exemption, and the
communities most at risk have been predominantly low income and minority

To settle a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice on behalf of the Sierra
Club, the EPA has agreed to undertake a new rulemaking process to
address these concerns. In this settlement agreement the EPA agreed to
take final action on the rulemaking no later than Dec. 31, 2012.

"This is a great first step toward restoring safeguards that should
always be in place at hazardous waste facilities," said Earthjustice
attorney Abigail Dillen. "This administration has promised to look out
for the vulnerable communities where hazardous wastes often end up, and
we expect EPA to deliver on that promise with protective new rules."

During the Clinton administration, an executive order was handed down
that required federal agencies to consider how their actions
disproportionally impact low-income and minority communities. In July
2009, the EPA agreed to undertake a comprehensive environmental justice
analysis—the first of its kind—to assess the threat posed to low-income
and communities of color by deregulation of hazardous waste recycling.

"We are pleased that those most directly affected by exposure to
these hazardous wastes are finally being heard," said Vernice
Miller-Travis, vice chair of the Maryland Commission on Environmental
Justice and Sustainable Communites. "This settlement agreement is a
clear reflection that this EPA is turning a new tide and listening
directly to the communities who were ignored for far too long."

Additional Resources: List and analysis of some unregulated facilities around the country


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