The politics of new environmental regulations

When EPA finalized its rule on excluding wastes that are to be reclaimed or recycled from the definition of RCRA solid waste on October 7, 2008, it was following a long tradition of rushing through final regulations in the waning days of an administration. These rules are to become effective December 29, 2008 – several weeks before a new administration takes over EPA in 2009.

The Clinton White House did the same “last minute” rush in finalizing environmental regulations. The difference was that they rushed to finalize more stringent regulations whereas the Bush White House is relaxing the regulations.

There are two ways the new Obama administration can reverse the last minute changes if it so chooses. One is for the Democratic Congress to pass a new law specifically reversing the new regulations. The other way is for the new EPA Administrator to go through the rule-making process all over again to reverse it. Both processes will take considerable amount of time.

One note about the new EPA regulation on redefining “RCRA solid waste”: it does not require state agencies to adopt it in their state regulations. What that means is that a state agency does not have to recognize EPA’s new regulation. So – check with your state agency after Decemebr 29, 2008 to see if it has adopted the new EPA regulation.

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