Vantage Point

Vol. 28 No. 3

Patrick J. Paul is the issue editor of the Winter 2014 issue of Natural Resources & Environment.

This issue of Natural Resources & Environment delves into the myriad of topics surrounding waste, both nationally and internationally. The authors explore renewable uses for certain types of waste as well as issues that evolve from changes in climate and technology. The wide diversity of topics reflects the scope of challenges and opportunities facing society as it struggles with growth and resource demands.

In the first article, Emily Russell writes on lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy impacting federal Superfund sites. She observes that as discussion on addressing impacts of climate change has trended from mitigation toward adaptation, the role of climate change in the remediation of Superfund sites has been ignored. In her opinion, the federal Superfund law is on the verge of revival. She notes that one of the overlooked effects of Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina was releases of hazardous substances from Superfund sites into surrounding communities. She urges consideration of the impacts of flooding, sea level rise, and more frequent hurricanes on the nation’s Superfund sites.

Michael Mills and Robin Seifried offer their thoughts on fracking wastewater. They note that concerns relating to fracking include impacts to drinking water and increased earthquake activity. Their article discusses the potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing and how those impacts should be addressed under current and future law.

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Graham Noyes writes on the topic of the conversion of waste to biofuels, noting that cutting-edge technologies that convert agricultural, forestry, and municipal waste streams into transportation fuels are increasingly going commercial. He discusses industry challenges associated with commodity price relationships, policy support, and technological hurdles.

The issue of EPA’s non-hazardous secondary materials rule is vetted by Angela Morrison. Her article explores whether air emissions from the combustion of a material should be considered for a waste determination under RCRA. She observes that EPA has taken different positions on the issue over the years and discusses the legal grounds in support of those positions.

The team of Lynn Kornfeld and Ann Prouty write on the issue of pharmaceutical waste management. Their article discusses recent developments in this area, including enforcement under RCRA and state implementing programs as well as emerging federal and state initiatives impacting hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, and other facilities that managed pharmaceutical products and wastes. Among other things, their article provides recommendations for healthcare facilities to maintain compliance with the rapidly evolving area of pharmaceutical waste regulation and suggests actions that might be taken to ensure that future regulatory changes address the unique concerns and challenges faced by the healthcare industry.

Christopher Smith writes on the topic of sewer sludge as a biosolid. He notes that neither sustainability nor the land application of biosolids is a fad. Mr. Smith notes that the last four decades have seen a shift from the historic treatment of domestic sewer waste in wastewater treatment facilities toward finding beneficial uses through sustainability practices. His article explores the practice of land application of biosolids and the current and future regulatory outlook, particularly as it relates to the management of domestic sewer sludge.

Vincent Brown offers an international perspective on waste disposal practices. He notes that the European Union has one of the more tightly regulated legal systems in the world governing industrial, commercial, and domestic waste. However, he maintains that the “unforgivingly tight” regulatory environment of the United Kingdom creates hurdles to the notion that industry can produce environmentally acceptable products and raw materials from wastes or other industrial residues or byproducts. His article explores the concept “end of waste” under European Union law. He discusses a variety of rulings impacting waste disposal, treatment, and regulation. He further observes that uncertainty and inconsistency abound in this arena, requiring a keen understanding of the complex legal rules applicable to different industrial circumstances.

This issue’s last article, contributed by Erin Guffey, reviews the liability consequences under the two staples of federal hazardous waste laws, namely RCRA and CERCLA. Her article discusses a variety of cases with divergent views on the imposition of liability. She observes that despite the strict liability mandate accompanying RCRA and CERCLA, some courts have disagreed on its application.

The breadth of the contributions demonstrates the relevance of this issue. Challenges domestic and abroad lay ahead, but so too do opportunities for creative thinking and management. We hope that the discussions in this issue will contribute to more thought as it relates to waste management and potential reuse.

Patrick J. Paul Issue Editor

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