A House subcommittee chairman yesterday asked the FBI to investigate allegations that former Environmental Protection Agency adviser James W. Sanderson "violated a federal criminal statute" by participating in EPA meetings that affected one of Sanderson's legal clients.

Sanderson, a Denver attorney, worked as a paid, part-time adviser to EPA Administrator Anne M. Burford from March, 1981, to June, 1982. During that time, according to EPA officials, he participated in several agency meetings on proposed landfill regulations that affected Chemical Waste Management Inc., which operates several hazardous waste landfills and is a client of Sanderson's.

Rep. Mike Synar (D-Okla.), chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee on environment, energy and natural resources, in a letter to FBI Director William H. Webster also asked the FBI to investigate the "potential criminal liability" of Burford and EPA general counsel Robert M. Perry, "who also participated in those meetings, apparently with full knowledge of Mr. Sanderson's financial interests."

Sanderson's attorney, Paul Cooper, has said it was proper for Sanderson to discuss the landfill regulations because it was a broad policy matter, not a particular issue affecting only Sanderson's client.

"If you couldn't do that, you'd never have anyone from the private sector serving in the government," Cooper said.

Synar's letter cited a statute that prohibits a federal employe from participating "personally and substantially" in a "particular matter" involving an organization in which he has "a personal financial interest."