The Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday it was considering easing or eliminating insurance requirements for operators of hazardous waste dumps.
The proposal, to be published in today's Federal Register, would apply only in the 11 states that have chosen direct federal regulation of hazardous waste disposal.
Neither Virginia nor Maryland would be included, unless they chose to adopt the standards as their own.
Increasingly, insurance companies have refused liability and property coverage for environmental damage, citing large court awards and poor underwriting results.
EPA spokeswoman Robin Woods said the agency could not estimate how many of the nation's 1,700 treatment, storage and disposal facilities holding interim permits had been refused insurance coverage, but said she believed it was a significant number.
Operators of regulated hazardous waste dumps must apply for permanent permits by Nov. 8 or they may no longer accept wastes for disposal.
In a regulation issued in 1982, the EPA said it would require dump operators to demonstrate liability coverage for what the insurance industry calls "nonsudden" and accidental damage of $3 million per occurrence and $6 million per year.
The agency, however, has been allowing some facilities to operate without full coverage. The EPA has estimated that as many as 30 percent of the 1,700 interim permit holders might elect not to apply for permanent permits.
The EPA asked for public comments by Sept. 19.