(Susan Walsh/AP)

One such bill is S. 710, a relatively under-the-radar measure, which President Obama signed Friday. It requires companies to keep electronic records of the hazardous waste that’s zooming around the country.

So, wait a sec. That means that until now, there have been only flimsy paper documents chronicling the comings and goings of dangerous junk, which could easily go up in flames (because that’s sometimes what happens to hazardous waste)?


Without it, say there’s an overturned truck on the side of the highway that’s oozing some sort of goo. The rig is marked “Hazardous Materials.” Firefighters and EMTs have only one way of immediately figuring out what the truck is carrying: go into the cab and find the piece of paper where it’s written.

“First responders aren’t always eager to go poking around like that,” says David Case, executive director of the Environmental Technology Council, which advocated for the bill. As for why the law wasn’t changed sooner, he says advocates “have been scratching their heads for years over this one.”

And in case one needed any more evidence of how much a no-brainer this one is, sponsors included both Sens. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). The climate-change denier and the tree-hugger, respectively, apparently found common ground — Inhofe apparently liked that the bill would save companies money, while Boxer’s angle was more environmental.

Lawmakers like to talk about common-sense legislation, but this one’s more like “Duh legislation.”