Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Representatives Object To EPA Proposed Comparable Fuel Exclusion

Nov 26: Twenty-five members of Congress, led by Representatives Mark Kirk (R-IL), Hilda L. Solis (D-CA), have sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson expressing "serious concerns" over EPA's proposed rule of June 15, 2007, that would expand the RCRA "Comparable Fuel Exclusion [72 FR 33284, 6/15/07]. The Members said, "This rule seeks to expand by more than eight times the current amount of hazardous waste reclassified as Comparable Fuel and excluded from all hazardous waste regulations. With an expansion of this magnitude, it is imperative that all relevant information be made available to the public so that potentially affected communities are afforded the right to comment on such a serious proposal..."

The Members indicate that in issuing the proposed rule, EPA never made available the exact facilities expected to handle and dispose of the deregulated waste. They said, "This information was released only after the comment period ended. The communities surrounding these eighty-six facilities were unaware that the rule would directly affect them and should be allowed to comment in light of this new information."

A release by the public interest law firm, Earthjustice states that EPA plan would "reclassify over 100,000 tons of hazardous waste, allowing many companies to use this waste as fuel rather than handle it as dangerous hazardous waste. The result is that many companies will burn this waste onsite, instead of sending it to a strictly controlled hazardous waste incinerator." They said that 90% of the companies that would be able to burn this hazardous waste onsite have been identified by EPA as needing "corrective action" for not fully complying with existing federal hazardous waste management regulations.

Congressman Kirk said, "The communities that would see increases in toxic pollutants were not notified until after the EPA comment period ended. This is particularly alarming, given that the EPA's own best-case estimates indicate the waste could release more pollutants than the combustion of fossil fuels. The 86 communities affected nationwide have a right to voice their concerns to this plan." Congresswoman Solis said, "By failing to reveal information about the location of facilities likely to burn hazardous waste, the EPA knowingly denied communities the chance to comment. Communities such as those in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley deserve an opportunity to participate in the process, particularly when their health and their environment are at risk. I urge the EPA to re-open this comment period and hope they will listen closely to the concerns of environmental justice communities across this country."

Earthjustice attorneys filed a Freedom of Information Act request that ultimately forced EPA to finally divulged the data. Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans said, "The gamble that EPA is taking with people's lives to make it easier for companies to burn more hazardous waste is simply wrong. EPA itself freely admits that they cannot guarantee burning this waste will have little or no adverse impact." Earthjustice said the so-called "emission-comparable fuels" rule is another EPA discretionary rulemaking in a "long line of free passes for polluters." They cite a 2006, the U.S. District Court of Appeals decision finding saying that EPA routinely neglects its duty to protect public health and the environment, and instead, "devotes substantial resources to discretionary rulemakings, many of which make existing regulations more congenial to industry." Earthjustice said, "In 2005, the Office of Management and Budget gave EPA its marching orders by publishing a list of regulatory rollbacks sought by industry. The Association of Manufacturers and the American Chemistry Council had put this relaxed hazardous waste burning regulation at the top of their wish list."

Earthjustice identifies some of the major facilities and notes: the Clean Harbors Baltimore facility in Baltimore, MD, will store and transport 2,077 tons of hazardous waste; the Systech Environmental Corporation in Paulding, OH, will store and transport 10,450 tons of hazardous waste; and the Safety Kleen Systems facility in Dolton, IL, just south of Chicago, will burn 1,786 tons of additional hazardous waste annually in boilers not permitted to burn hazardous waste. Information on the other facilities is available from the link below.

Access a release from Earthjustice (click here). Access the letter from Congressional members and the list of members (click here). Access more information about the other 83 facilities (click here). Access a map of the United States indicating the where the facilities are located and additional information (click here). Access the FR announcement (click here). Access the EPA Docket for this proposed rulemaking (click here). [*Haz]