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Volume 15, Issue 5 — May 1985

Articles

The Enemy Below: EPA Plans Action on Leaking Underground Storage Tanks

by Leonard A. Miller and Robert S. Taylor

Editors' Summary: In recent years, environmental law has gone underground. The realization that groundwater has been widely contaminated by toxic substances from chemical dumps, pesticide application, and other sources has focused attention on subsurface pollution. Recently, a new culprit has been identified—leaking underground tanks in which oil, gas, chemicals, and wastes are stored. Congress perceived the problem as serious enough to warrant addition of a new program to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at the end of last year. The authors examine the problem of leaking underground tanks, Congress' far-reaching response in the new Subchapter IX of RCRA, and the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) initial efforts to implement the complex requirements. They highlight the special challenges posed by the fact that EPA must regulate a vast community of tank owners, many of whom have been untouched by earlier federal pollution control laws, and suggest a number of ways in which EPA and the regulated community can improve the chances of success.

Dialogue

Amending FIFRA—An Industry View

by Kenneth W. Weinstein

Once again, as in the past several years, it appears that Congress will consider amending the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). A coalition of environmental groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, has suggested legion amendments ("The Federal Pesticide Reform Act of 1985") which would largely rewirte the law. Senator Proxmire (D. Wis.) introduced S. 309 to amend FIFRA on January 29, patterned after the environmentalists' proposal.1

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drafted a less ambitious set of proposed amendments, but these were quashed by the Office of Management and Budget. Nevertheless, Congressman Bedell (D. Iowa), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Research and Foreign Agriculture of the House Agriculture Committee, has made known his desire to assemble a bill bassed on the EPA draft.2 Congressman Heftell (D. Hawaii) has introduced the "Pesticide Import and Export Act of 1985," H.R. 1416, which would amend the export provisions of FIFRA.3

Federal Pesticide Control Law: The Need for Reform

by Jay Feldman

Just as surely as the cropdusters appear on the spring horizon to spray their mist of pesticides on the nation's agricultural lands, helicopters hover over forest lands to drop their mix of insect and weed killers, and lawn care services douse the suburbs with chemical agents, the Agriculture Committees in the United States Congress approach their seasonal task of reauthorizing the federal law intended to control those deadly sprays. Neither the start of the spray season, nor the seasonal legislative consideration of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is without controversy.

One of the most controversial and distressing aspects of the nation's 2.7 billion pounds of annual pesticide use is the alarming extent to which these toxic chemicals—which, unlike most toxics, are intentionally and legally disseminated into the human environment—remain untested for carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic effects. A report published in 1982 by the staff of a congressional subcommittee confirmed a decade of similar investigations, finding that 79 to 84 percent of pesticides lacked adequate carcinogenicity testing, 90 to 93 percent lacked adequate mutagenicity testing, and 60 to 70 percent lacked adequate testing for their tendency to cause birth defects.1 More recently, in 1984, the National Academy of Science found that complete health hazards assessments for pesticides and inert ingredients of pesticide formulations are possible for only 10 percent of pesticides in use.2 Many other problems exist, including a poor EPA enforcement record, extensive use of special exemptions from product registration requirements, drawn out administrative safety reviews, inadequate applicator training and certification, and major use problems that result in food, groundwater, and living and working space contamination.