I would like to take a moment to congratulate Subcommittee Chairman Thune on his first hearing. Senator Thune has already demonstrated a great ability to consider legislation and balance the interests of diverse groups of stakeholders. I am confident that as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Superfund and Waste Management, he will lead on several important issues facing our Nation.
And I must say, Mr. Chairman, you are certainly diving right into a big issue with today’s hearing. The issue of electronics waste and recycling has become one that a lot of people talk about but have had difficulty in defining what the problems are much less potential solutions.
Various interest groups and European Nations have been pushing for laws restricting electronics waste and require recycling. A handful of States have passed or are contemplating legislation that adopts differing regulatory approaches.
Enacting environmental regulations cost money, and the subject of funding various e-waste and recycling programs is one of the bedrock issues of today’s hearing. In reviewing the various approaches and responses from individual stakeholders one thing is clear: the issue of electronics waste and recycling has tremendous impacts on the competitiveness of companies.
The electronics industry is one of the most price sensitive, and shifting compliance costs may have serious consequences that could jeopardize a business’s future. Congress should take care in proposing laws that may pick winners and losers.
Upon assuming the Chairmanship of the Environment Committee I pledged to focus on well grounded science as a benchmark for regulations. In applying that standard here, I am concerned with considering the best approach given the potential benefits versus the costs.
To my knowledge, EPA is unaware of a single instance where toxins from electronics have leeched from a landfill. I am not suggesting that people must be injured before Congress or the Agency should act, however, I firmly believe that regulations should not be imposed for the sake of imposing regulations based upon the precautionary principle.
Further, Americans enjoy their electronics and domestic businesses have prospered as a result. However, dictating technology or increasing the costs of popular consumer goods based on circumstances still being studied may have a stifling effect on the highly competitive and global electronics sector.
This is the first hearing the Environment and Public Works Committee has ever held on electronics waste and the first hearing for Subcommittee Chairman Thune. I am confident that he will review and balance all of the points of view in considering this very complex issue. I look forward to working with him.