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Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BUTTERFIELD. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in strong support of the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act, as amended by the Energy and Commerce Committee. This legislation will establish a centralized, Federal electronic manifest system for tracking hazardous waste for both the Federal Government and the States, and will pay for it through the collection of user fees.

Protecting the public from hazardous waste is certainly a critical mission of the Department of Transportation and the EPA. Both departments, in coordination with industry and State agencies, have been vigilant in the treatment and transport of hazardous waste because of the safeguards established by the hazardous waste manifest system. Paper manifests provide shipping information to help with the tracking of potentially dangerous materials and information about the contents of each shipment for emergency responders.

The requirements of the current system were established over 30 years ago. Since 2001, the EPA has proposed a nearly paperless manifest system, which would reduce the financial burden of paperwork on States and the industry. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson described the adoption of an electronic system for manifests as ``an investment in modernizing the system that will pay off in efficiency later.'' That is why this legislation has wide support from hazardous waste generators, shippers, and processors, in that it reduces administrative and paperwork burdens.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this program will yield net annual savings for industry and the States of over $100 million per year. The CBO also estimates that about 114,000 shippers would use this new system in the year 2016, with shipping users almost doubling in later years to 227,000.

Environmental groups also support this legislation because it will lead to ``reductions in regulatory burden while simultaneously increasing the timeliness and availability of hazardous waste data'' and ``better protecting our environment.'' Those are their quotes.

I think the gentleman from Pennsylvania made reference to this a moment ago. In 2006, a fire erupted at a hazardous waste disposal facility in my home State of North Carolina. When first responders arrived on the scene, they could not access information about the hazardous chemicals inside of the facility because the paper manifests were inside the building that was burning.

We should bring this system, Mr. Speaker, into the 21st century. Technology has advanced. We all know that. There has been such advancement in technology over the last 32 years, and we should no longer be relying on carbon copies to track potentially dangerous shipments. Today's proposed legislation also maintains flexibility for small businesses by making participation in the electronic reporting program voluntary. It's not compulsory. It is a voluntary proposal. So, if any firm chooses, it can still use paper-based reporting methods.

As it passed the Senate, S. 710 embodied concepts that are widely supported, but it carried significant costs and direct spending, and deviated from the common practice of making the collection and utilization of user fees subject to appropriation.

But Chairman Shimkus worked closely with the Democratic members of the Environment and Economy Subcommittee to craft a substitute bill that addresses concerns while preserving the benefits of the legislation. The bill passed out of our subcommittee and the full Energy and Commerce Committee on voice votes with strong bipartisan support. I believe, Mr. Speaker, it has a high likelihood of being accepted by the Senate and the President. We will certainly give them that opportunity. I urge my colleagues to support this bill so we can finally see this significant improvement signed into law.

I want to thank Mr. Murphy and all of the other Members who worked to expedite this legislation and get it to the floor today. I'm going to ask my colleagues to join with us in passing this bill.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. BUTTERFIELD. I don't have any more speakers, and I too am prepared to close.

Mr. Speaker, as the final speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, let me again thank Mr. Murphy, the gentleman from Pennsylvania, and Mr. Shimkus, and the chair and the ranking member of all the committees of jurisdiction for their extraordinary work on this bill.

This is a critical piece of legislation. All of the stakeholders who are involved in disposing of chemicals and shipping chemicals are all in agreement that this is necessary. In fact, the time has passed that we pass this type of legislation. We live in a new age of technology now, so there's no excuse for us not automating these procedures. This bill today enables that to happen.

I want to thank all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their spirit of bipartisanship in getting this to the floor. I ask my colleagues to please vote ``yes'' on this important legislation.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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