As West Virginians were learning Thursday of a devastating chemical spill in the Elk River that has rendered water undrinkable for 300,000 people, the US House of Representatives was busy gutting federal hazardous-waste cleanup law.
The House passed the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act that would ultimately eliminate requirements for the Environmental Protection Agency to review and update hazardous-waste disposal regulations in a timely manner, and make it more difficult for the government to compel companies that deal with toxic substances to carry proper insurance for cleanups, pushing the cost on to taxpayers.
In addition, the bill would result in slower response time in the case of a disaster, requiring increased consultation with states before the federal government calls for cleanup of Superfund sites – where hazardous waste could affect people and the environment.
The bill amends both the Solid Waste Disposal Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act – often referred to as Superfund, which was created in 1980 to hold polluter industries accountable for funding the cleanup of hazardous-waste sites.
There are over 1,300 priority Superfund sites in the US.
The legislation was passed by a vote of 225 to 188, mostly along party lines, with all but four Republicans supporting the bill and all but five Democrats opposing it.0