Position on Hazardous Materials

State or National:


Position in Brief:

Support comprehensive measures to provide maximum protection to human health and the environment from the adverse effects of hazardous materials, including pesticides. An integrated approach should be taken to prevent harmful exposures through soil, surface and ground water contamination, bio-accumulation, air pollution and direct contact. Hazardous materials planning should promote pollution prevention. All levels of government share responsibility for preventing exposures.


Public Information

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  1. The public has the right to know the potentially harmful effects of materials they encounter in the home, workplace and community. Citizens should be included in the planning and decision making processes of hazardous material management. Adequate funding to promote citizen participation should be available.
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    Regulatory Structure
  2. State government should establish an integrated regulatory structure clearly delineating jurisdictional and agency responsibilities for the safe production, use, transportation, treatment, storage, disposal andcleanup of hazardous materials. It should include adequate budget and staff and be accountable to the public.
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  3. Hazardous materials planning should promote source reduction, recycling and resource recovery, and regional solutions to hazardous waste disposal. Plans should establish:
    1. renewable permitting processes;reporting requirements for industry inventories, spills, leaks and releases;systems for collecting and disseminating data with provisions for public access;stringent siting, design and operating standards for facilities;stringent licensing, monitoring, operating and enforcement standards for vehicles;provisions for managing the hazardous waste disposal of households and small businesses;provisions for evaluating the cumulative impacts of hazardous materials in an area;frequent monitoring and effective enforcement procedures.
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  4. Hazardous materials regulations should include:
    1. a timetable for implementation;incentive and inspection programs coupled with penalties to encourage compliance and discourage illegal practices;provisions for educating the public and industry;coordination of emergency response procedures;mechanisms to arbitrate conflicts between governmental bodies and between citizens and governmental bodies.
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  5. State government should have the financial capabilities to provide for testing priority substances and should use interim measures to limit exposures until health-based standards are adopted.
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    To assess risks, agencies at appropriate levels of government should:
    1. establish science-based priorities;use the best available data;include objective peer review;expand and coordinate environmental monitoring for exposure assessment;provide for periodic updating and review of the data.
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  6. Statewide standards should emphasize the prevention of harmful exposures.
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    State and local standards may exceed federal standards where appropriate for the jurisdiction. All standards should be monitored and enforced by the appropriate level of government. Specifically standards should:
    1. establish maximum contamination levels for hazardous materials allowed in the air, in surfaceand groundwater, in soil and as residue on food and feed crops;prevent degradation of existing clean air, surface and groundwater and soil;prohibit further degradation of already polluted areas;require that hazardous wastes be treated to level of Best Available Control Technology standards before disposal;at a minimum site clean up should meet standards of existing law.
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  7. Health-based standards to manage the risks of hazardous materials, including pesticides, should include a margin of safety above the assessed risk, and be periodically reviewed and updated. Any variance or exemption should be based strictly on the necessity of the substance or practice and be of limited duration. Risk management criteria to implement standards should give:
    1. maximum consideration to the cost of inaction to the public in terms of short and long term health and environmental effects, and to the likelihood of involuntary exposures;major consideration to both availability of existing technology to control and test substances and the need to force technological innovation to reduce risks;moderate consideration to the effects on the state’s economy and on employment; limited consideration to the cost to government and to commercial interest;minimal consideration to the effects on the price of a product.
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    Economic Compensation
  8. State government should administer an accessible expeditious system to compensate individuals foreconomic damages caused by involuntary exposure to hazardous materials. The system should:
    1. be financed by private and public monies;
    2. preserve the right of individuals to seek further compensation through the tort system;
    3. preserve the right of the state to seek reimbursement for claims paid. Legal Recourse
  9. For personal injury allegedly caused by hazardous materials the tort system should:
    1. permit plaintiffs access to full compensation;admit valid scientific studies into evidence;require full disclosure about the effects of substances;hold commercial handlers of specified substances to a standard of strict liability.
  10. Safe management of hazardous materials, and compliance with regulations, and liability are costs of doing business. Industry should consider the long rather than the short term costs. Consumers and taxpayers must expect some costs to be passed on to them. The state should use incentives and disincentives as a management tool to minimize adverse exposures to hazardous materials. Specifically, the state should:
    1. recover its regulatory costs primarily through taxes on industrial users and producers, and through license and permit fees, penalties and fines;
    2. provide financial and technical assistance for research on resource recovery and recycling;
    3. equalize tax treatment and fee structure between virgin and secondary materials, with mandatory periodic review and justification;
    4. help local governments develop and exercise hazardous materials management functions by in creased financial aid for research,technical assistance and data collection;
    5. hold commercial handlers to a standard of strict, joint and several liability for the cleanup of hazardous pollution;
    6. implement, enforce and monitor regulations to prevent exposures and to enable consideration of some limits on future liability for environmental exposures on a case by case basis.

Position History:

Adopted 1986 and 1987; Readopted at last convention