Commentary

Federal Rules Not Needed

By Jerry Taylor
This article appeared in USA Today on September 12, 1991.
The landfill rules issued Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency are nothing short of a regulatory wilding on the economy and the American people. Once again, Bill Reilly’s agency has demonstrated a complete disregard for scientific facts and common sense. Why must landfills in the Southwest, for example, be required to deploy expensive technologies to protect non-existent ground water? Most sober analysts understand that the states, not the federal government, should be left to regulate landfills as warranted.

How much of a threat are landfills? A 1989 EPA study found that only 1% of our ground water has been contaminated, and the main source of contamination was natural, dissolved solids. EPA later concluded that solid-waste landfills, under worst-case assumptions, may be responsible for one statistical cancer death every 23 years. Clearly, there is no justification for regulatory hysteria.

Yet, in order to protect us from this ”problem,” the regulations will close one-third of our landfills and add $ 1 billion a year to municipal tax bills. For this massive expenditure, one cancer risk every 40 years will be avoided at a cost of $ 19.8 billion, 10 times the entire budget of the National Cancer Institute.

Why go forward with these nonsensical regulations? EPA bureaucrats get to invent an environmental threat which they can publicly and loudly ”solve” at taxpayer expense. Environmentalists get to perpetuate the myth that, unless we recycle, we’re all going to die. And giant waste-disposal firms will reap windfall profits as the onerous financial burden of these regulations forces smaller players out of the market and doubles or triples the value of remaining space.

All in a day’s work at Reilly’s EPA.

Jerry Taylor is director of natural resource studies at the Cato Institute.