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Chemical Waste Management, Inc. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: When Does a Waste Escape RCRA Subtitle C Regulation?

January 1994

Citation: ELR 10022

Author: Barry Needleman

Congress enacted the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)1 in 1976, to regulate management of solid and hazardous waste. RCRA Subtitle C regulates hazardous waste management2 and Subtitle D governs nonhazardous, solid waste.3 In 1984, Congress passed the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA),4 significantly amending and expanding RCRA Subtitle C. HSWA added to RCRA the Land Disposal Restriction (LDR) Program, or land ban, which bars land disposal of hazardous wastes that fail to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency)-promulgated treatment standards.5

On June 1, 1990, EPA published land-ban treatment standards for a set of hazardous wastes known as the "third third."6 Members of the regulated community, industry groups, and environmental organizations challenged these standards in Chemical Waste Management, Inc. [CWM] v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.7 The decision, which some have called a significant victory for environmentalists and a major blow to industry,8 upheld many of the regulations. It clarifies the broad scope of EPA's authority over waste and makes important changes to RCRA's approach to regulation of characteristic wastes, underground injection of hazardous waste under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)9 and treatment of waste in lagoons at water treatment facilities regulated under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA).10

Mr. Needleman is a member of the Environmental Law Department of McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, in Concord, N.H. He received his J.D. from Lewis & Clark, Northwestern School of Law, and his L.L.M. (in Environmental Law) from George Washington University, National Law Center.