Statement by the U.S. EPA on the President's Signing of the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984

[EPA press release - November 9, 1984]

The President last night signed H.R. 2867, "The Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984," which will strengthen this nation's ability to deal with hazardous waste.

In 1976 the Congress passed the landmark Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). This law authorized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set standards for generators and transporters of hazardous wastes and for operators of hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. These standards are applied through a permitting program, a manifest system, and other administrative mechanisms to, in effect, track and deal with the wastes "from the cradle to the grave."

H.R. 2867, which was worked on by many members of both houses of the Congress on both sides of the aisle for over two and a half years, will build upon the existing hazardous waste regulatory program with a number of significant changes.

There are new requirements governing generators, transporters, and disposers of small quantities of hazardous wastes who have generally not been subject to full regulation under RCRA. These new standards may vary from those applicable to large generators, but must be sufficient to protect human health and the environment.

The bill requires that land disposal of a hazardous waste must be banned unless EPA determines that the prohibition of such disposal is not necessary to protect human health and the environment. The bill also prohibits the landfilling of bulk or non-containerized liquids, the placement of bulk liquids in salt domes, use of hazardous waste contaminated oil as a dust suppressant, and the injection of hazardous waste into or above an underground drinking water source.

The bill further requires persons who produce, burn, and distribute or market fuel derived from hazardous waste to notify EPA and for EPA to promulgate recordkeeping requirements and technical standards for them.

In addition, the bill strengthens federal enforcement of RCRA by expanding the list of prohibited actions which may constitute criminal offenses and by raising the maximum criminal penalties.

Finally, H.R. 2867 requires EPA to issue regulations for and to establish a program to control underground tanks containing petroleum, hazardous wastes, and other designated substances.

Many of the amendments made by H.R. 2867 are generally consistent with actions EPA has underway already. The agency is working on additional regulatory controls for small quantity generators of hazardous waste, has begun a program to supplement its existing regulations with a ban on wastes that cannot be disposed of safely on the land; and is preparing technical standards to regulate blending, transportation, storage and burning of hazardous waste as fuel. H.R. 2867 affirms and broadens EPA's current statutory authority to pursue these objectives.

This bill adds major new responsibilities, numerous tight deadlines, and many requirements that go into effect automatically or soon after the date of enactment. The provision on underground storage tanks, for example, may require regulation of several million tanks nationwide and will impose new statutory controls on the estimated 100,000 new tanks installed each year for hazardous substances. Requirements that go into effect by statute for land disposal facilities institute an abrupt change in direction and an expansion of EPA's permit enforcement and state authorization programs in the field.

"The new expansion of the hazardous waste management program which the President has signed presents a major challenge for EPA and the nation, but it is one which we cannot fail to meet if we are to protect our citizens' health and our country's environment from the dangers of uncontrolled hazardous waste disposal," EPA Administrator William D. Ruckelshaus said.