Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed legislation weakening the state on Friday hazardous waste regulations and open the door to a controversial type of recycling supported by the plastics industry and decried by environmentalists.
Parson, a Republican, signed legislation at stop the Missouri Department of Natural Resources from enacting hazardous waste rules which differ in any way from the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The bill too removes permit requirement for chemical recycling facilitiesoften referred to as “advanced recycling”.
Parson did not comment on either provision of the bill in his office’s press release.
Conservative lawmakers for several years have proposed reducing state rules on hazardous waste, arguing that a state like Missouri shouldn’t ask companies to follow regulations that go further than the federal government.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, has repeatedly referred to tourist caves in southwestern Missouri battling the fumes of trichlorethylene, or TCE, flowing from upstream .
TCE can cause kidney and liver cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, heart defects, leukemia, multiple myeloma, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease and scleroderma.
Burlison said businesses in his district are afraid of the Department of Natural Resources. On Friday, he said he was very pleased the governor signed the legislation.
“Hopefully this will bring more transparency to the process and that there will be fewer companies surprised and rattled by more restrictive regulations than the federal government,” Burlison said.
It was never mentioned during the committee hearings that a central Missouri company lobbied for hazardous waste provisions In the wings. That company was ORBCO, the manufacturing plant owned by the family business of Barry Orscheln, chairman of the Missouri Conservation Commission and Parson’s Environmentalist of the Year in November.
ORBCO fought for months with the DNR over whether to test around the manufacturing plant for TCE pollution that health officials say could harm workers at the plant.
His attorney argued that the DNR was extending its authority by forcing ORBCO to perform the work recommended in a nonbinding EPA guidance document.
A year later, the same complaint arose during discussion of Burlison’s bill.
“Guidance documents are not laws,” McCarty, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri, told the House Emerging Issues Committee last year. “They are not legal. They are not controlled. They are not issued by elected officials. They are rejected by unelected bureaucrats.
The legislation also removed the requirement for advanced recycling facilities to obtain a hazardous waste permit. Instead, Missouri will treat them as manufacturers.
Rep. Jeff Knight, R-Lebanon, who sponsored the legislation, said it would help promote Missouri and encourage facilities to locate in the state and create opportunity by eliminating “unnecessary” regulation.
“Well, every time you eliminate these (regulations), if some of these companies do that, you’re actually eliminating certain polymers and plastics from landfills,” Knight said.
But environmentalists warn that advanced recycling is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
“It’s just that the science isn’t quite there,” Bridget Sanderson, state director for Environment Missouri, said earlier this year. “And of course there are a lot of greenhouse gas emissions…and toxic substances coming out of these facilities as well.”
Often, say opponents, advanced recycling facilities do not produce new plastics. Instead, they convert processed plastic waste into fuel to burn – although the American Chemistry Council said this was the first phase of the technology’s development. The industry is shifting from plastic to plastic recycling, the group said in an interview earlier this year.
There is also little agreement regarding the level of greenhouse gas emissions or the risk of toxic waste associated with the process.
During a House committee discussion of the bill, a representative asked Sierra Club lobbyist Michael Berg whether it was better for plastic waste to end up in a landfill or be converted into fuel and burned. .
“Probably to end up in the landfill,” Berg said.