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[GreenYes] EPA Proposal to Deregulate Municipal Solid Waste Landfills Opposed by Green Groups
November 19, 2002
Contact:  Bill Sheehan 706-613-7121

EPA Proposal to Deregulate Municipal 
Solid Waste Landfills Opposed by Green Groups

ATHENS, Ga. --  A coalition of 14 national, state
and local environmental organizations today
opposed major rule changes proposed by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would
effectively abandon Congressionally mandated
federal standards and oversight for municipal
landfills.  The GrassRoots Recycling Network, the
Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the
Earth, U.S. Public Interest Group, the US Compost
Council, and the Institute for Local Self
Reliance, joined by eight other organizations,
formed a coalition to fight EPA's latest effort to
deregulate long standing environmental

"EPA's proposed rule change would effectively
deregulate municipal solid waste landfills by
giving States the authority to override most
national minimum standards in permitting new
landfills - all in the ostensible name of
unmonitored experimentation," said Bill Sheehan,
executive director of the Grassroots Recycling
Network, which organized the coalition.  "The
result will be more landfills leaking toxic
pollution and more uncontrolled release of
climate-changing landfill gas."

On June 10, 2002, EPA published proposed rules in
the Federal Register that would permit States to
waive compliance with most federal minimum
standards for municipal garbage landfill design.

Allen Hershkowitz, Senior Scientist for the
Natural Resources Defense Council, debunked EPA's
claims that the rule was intended to encourage
innovation.  "For one thing," he said, "innovation
is neither defined nor limited in the proposed
rule, and it is not subject to any federal
oversight. As a practical matter, that means the
rule's waivers could be given to anyone." 

"Even more to the point, rules already exist that
allow experimental permits, but with federal
oversight and coordination, for truly innovative
approaches. There is simply no way to generate
valid scientific data that can be compared with
each other by scattering experiments over 50
different jurisdictions without consistent testing
or reporting requirements, as this proposal would
permit," Hershkowitz added.

"Congress enacted the Resource Conservation
Recovery Act (RCRA) to set minimum national
standards," said Brent Blackwelder, president of
Friends of the Earth.  "Undoing them now would set
back environmental regulation of solid waste by
almost 20 years."   James McNelly, Legislative
Chair of the U.S. Compost Council, pointed out
that "the present federal rules badly need to be
strengthened in order to comply with RCRA, which
requires that waste rules insure that there be 'no
reasonable probability of adverse effects on
health or the environment.' Gutting them is the
last thing we ought to be doing."

"EPA is on a mission to make wholesale changes in
waste regulations to replace federal minimums with
whatever the States decide to do," said the Public
Interest Research Group's Julie Wolk.  "We had
State, instead of federal environmental
regulation, in the 1950's and 1960's. Because that
led to a 'race to the bottom,' it failed. That is
precisely why we went to federal minimum standards
in the 1970's and eighties. This proposed rule is
just the latest attempt to roll back environmental

"EPA is taking risks with the Nation's health and
groundwater resources," said Niel Seldman,
president of Institute for Local Self Reliance.
"The conservative, proven approach is to invest in
up-front recycling which keeps materials from
entering our landfills. This limits risks and adds
to economic and energy efficiency goals."

A summary and detailed set of the comments are
posted at: 

Organizations in the Coalition include

Natural Resources Defense Council
Friends of the Earth
U.S. Public Interest Group
U.S. Composting Council
GrassRoots Recycling Network
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Global Alternatives to Incineration Alliance
New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NY)
California Resource Recycling Association (CA)
North California Recycling Association (CA)
Eco-Cycle (CO)
Eureka Recycling (MN)
Waukesha Environmental Action League (WI)
Campaign Virginia (VA). 

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