Take your car in for an oil change, and you pay a few bucks as a “disposal fee,” sometimes called an “environmental impact fee.” Fair enough, landfills cost money to operate.
But when BP’s oil gushes into the Gulf, the resulting cleanup trash gets all the public landfill space it needs, and the scads of hazardous waste is exempt from laws that govern most other such waste. How can that possibly be?
The New York Times and other sources note that a 1988 U.S. EPA regulation specifically exempts “oil exploration and production waste” from the hazmat handling standards. Called a “carve out,” it’s just the latest indication of how cozy our regulators have always been with Big Oil. Now communities are discovering that BP not only defiled the Gulf, they’re about to dump the refuse into landfills not designed to contain oil products.
Remember Hugh Kaufman, the senior EPA policy analyst who blew the whistle on oil spill flow rates and dispersant use? The NYT quotes him as saying that the carve-out “was a political decision” rather than a technical determination. And he works in the EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.
The local jurisdictions are taking their own action against this, but as with many other issues they are running into a clash with federal law. Once again, it feels to many like it’s the BP and the federal government against the locals.
The Miami Herald has a good report here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/08/02/1758452/for-oil-the-final-spot.html#ixzz0vY9eHnWv
And the NYT story is here: http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/07/20/20greenwire-how-has-bps-oily-waste-escaped-hazardous-label-54942.html