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House subcommittee approves RCRA reauthorization.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Transportation and Hazardous Materials (Al Swift, D-Wash., Chrmn.), in completing action last week on H.R. 3865, a measure reauthorizing the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), beat back repeated attempts to deprive or significantly hamper local governments from exercising the option to incinerate municipal solid waste. RCRA is the nation's cradle-to-grave hazardous and solid waste management law.

In addition, the subcommittee approved an amendment offered by Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.) incorporating a major new approach to stimulate market development for the vast quantities of municipal solid waste now being separated from the waste stream for recycling.

The subcommittee failed, however, to approve an amendment proposed by Rep. Don Ritter (R-Pa.) which would expand current RCRA provisions giving EPA the authority to take into consideration the ability of solid waste disposal facilities in small and rural communities to comply with new mandates in the bill.

Also approved by the subcommittee were provisions offered by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) granting local governments authority to approve or disapprove disposal of out-of-state waste by new or expanded privately owned waste disposal facilities in their communities. These provisions are unavailable to local governments in an importing state that has failed to develop an approvable solid waste management plan or from an exporting state that has failed to develop a plan.

The Collins market-development amendment requires packagers to comply with reuse standards in their packaging on a company-by-company basis, a strategy believed to be more enforceable than imposing requirements on an industrywide basis. Packagers are offered a menu of options (named the Multiple Option Packaging Strategy or, MOPS) to reduce the amount of waste from their packages: reuse of 25 percent of their packaging materials by 1995 and 50 percent by 2000; or, 25 percent recycled content by 1995 and 50 percent by 2000; or, use of packages that can be refilled or reused at least five times; or reductions in the weight or volume of the product by 15 to 20 percent.

The subcommittee also approved a Boucher amendment to the Collins proposal exempting plastic film wrap from the reduction requirements.

Also accepted by the subcommittee was an amendment by Reps. W.J. Tauzin (D-La.) and Dennis Eckart (D-Ohio) exempting plastic and paperboard food wrap from the MOPS requirements. The amendment was drafted in response to Food and Drug Administration concerns that the use of certain recycled materials in direct contact with food could cause contamination.

The most contentious issues were the various proposals designed to inhibit or prohibit the use of incineration as a waste disposal option, all of which were voted down by the subcommittee. The principal sponsor of anti-incineration amendments, Rep. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.) first proposed that municipal incinerator ash be regulated under the Subtitle C (hazardous waste) provisions of RCRA; that hazardous household waste be prohibited from incinerators; and that recycling or reuse of ash also be prohibited. The amendment was subsequently withdrawn. Next, Richardson proposed a moratorium on the construction of incinerators until the year 2000. His major concern was that siting and constructing an incinerator would negatively affect recycling initiatives. The amendment was defeated 4 to 13.

Rep. Gerry Sikorski (D-Minn.) was unable to persuade subcommittee members to support provisions banning the incineration of noncombustible or recyclable materials. A Swift-Sikorski amendment to prohibit incineration of household batteries was approved.

Sikorski also tried unsuccessfully to include provisions requiring manufacturers of durable goods, i.e., furniture, appliances, non-auto motor vehicles, etc., to take these items back. The subcommittee approved instead a substitute proposed by Boucher creating an EPA appointed 15 member board to evaluate the feasibility of Sikorski's proposal and to recommend guidelines for the disposal of durable goods. Several Sikorski amendments to mandate minimum content standards for glass, aluminum, steel, printing and writing paper, and fiberglass building materials were all rejected.

The measure now moves to the full House Energy and Commerce Committee (John Dingell, D-Mich., Chrmn.) which has not yet set a date for further consideration of the bill.
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Title Annotation:Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Author:Kocheisen, Carol
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Mar 30, 1992
Words:669
Previous Article:New transportation plan heeds environment.
Next Article:Courts hold governments liable for cleanup of Superfund sites.


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