New Regulations for Hazardous Waste Spills

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 @ 11:02 AM gHale

New regulations are forthcoming to protect communities from industrial waste spills as part of a settlement between environmental groups and the federal government.

The Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and People Concerned About Chemical Safety had accused the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of failing to meet its duty under the Clean Water Act to outline procedures, equipment and other specifications to follow regarding hazardous discharges from onshore facilities, court records show.

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The parties agreed to settle after the EPA lost a motion to dismiss and both parties filed motions for summary judgment in the case. Now the EPA will follow its rulemaking process to create regulations aimed at preventing the spills, according to a consent decree signed Tuesday.

Under the settlement, the EPA will begin its rulemaking process immediately and finalize hazardous spill prevention rules within four years, according to the consent decree. The new protections will cover more than 350 hazardous chemicals and apply broadly to tens of thousands of industrial facilities nationwide, said Erik Olson, director of the NRDC’s health program.

“It’s long past time for EPA to protect the health of residents near these industrial sites, and we urge the agency to adopt strong, protective standards to prevent future spills,” Olson said.

The advocacy groups cited a 2014 incident in the Kanawha Valley in West Virginia, a heavily industrialized area, in which 10,000 gallons of a chemical used to process coal leaked into Charleston’s drinking water supply. The contamination meant nearly 300,000 people didn’t have access to clean tap water for a week, the groups said.

Those people filed a proposed class action against coal companies days after the spill, which two Freedom Industries Inc. executives agreed to settle in December, court records show.