I am pleased today to sign the Solid Waste Disposal Act Amendments of 1980, which will significantly strengthen our power to stop illegal hazardous waste practices. Senator Culver, Congressman Staggers, and Congressman Florio are to be particularly congratulated for shepherding these important amendments through the Congress.
My administration has moved with all the tools at its command to address the critical environmental problem of hazardous waste disposal:
—An aggressive program was mounted to take action against those responsible for dangerous hazardous waste dumping. Hazardous waste task forces were formed at the Environmental Protection Agency and at the Justice Department. Over 1,300 possible hazardous waste sites have been investigated. As a result, 51 enforcement actions have been filed, and 40 emergency-response actions have been taken. The Environmental Protection Agency is also assisting the States to strengthen their programs with grants of $30 million.
—The Environmental Protection Agency has issued regulations designed to prevent continued dumping of toxic wastes. These regulations take effect on November 19, just 5 weeks from now. They set stringent requirements for all handlers of hazardous waste, and establish a system to choke off so-called midnight dumpers. They will help our Nation to manage wastes safely and prevent the creation of new Love Canals.
—Finally, over 16 months ago I proposed enactment of superfund legislation. The superfund law will allow the Environmental Protection Agency to respond immediately to hazardous situations by providing authority to clean up old dumpsites first and then argue in court as to who should pay the cost. It will also create a fund to pay for cleanup where no responsible party can be identified. This vital bill has passed the House and is pending in the Senate. I will make every effort to enact the superfund law during the postelection session of Congress that begins November 12.
The cost of adequately handling and disposing of hazardous waste sites runs into the billions of dollars. But the costs of ignoring the problem would be far higher. The legislation that I am signing today is an important step toward meeting our responsibilities to the American public.