Meanwhile, the House committee that has jurisdiction over solid and hazardous waste issues is losing patience with the Environmental Protection Agency. This week the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in voting unanimously to reauthorize the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act for two years, delivered several reprimands to the agency.
Snubbing the administration's $74 million request for fiscal 1983, the committee reauthorized the solid and hazardous waste management program for 1983 at this year's level of $118 million and increased it to $121 million for fiscal 1984.
The committee told the EPA to issue regulations to "minimize" liquids in landfills within a year, a slap at the agency's recent handling of the issue. The current regulations cover the 60,000 largest generators. But because they exempt any firm that generates less than 1,000 kilograms (about 1.1 tons) of hazardous waste a month, or about 700,000 generators, the committee voted to lower the threshold to 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds), which it estimates would bring 135,000 more generators under the act.
The bill also would close two other loopholes that the committee estimates allow about 24 million tons of hazardous waste per month to go unregulated. Hazardous waste injected deeply underground is not covered by the act, nor is hazardous waste burned for energy recovery purposes. The EPA says it does not believe either practice poses an immediate problem, but the committee says it fears that the first could contaminate drinking water and the second could contaminate heating oil. The bill would ban the underground injection method. Within six months it would require those who blend hazardous materials with fuel or use them for other energy purposes to inform the EPA, and would require the agency to regulate those practices within two years.