Missouri hospitals soon could face new regulations covering the incineration of infectious waste, although a state court blocked the implementation of those rules earlier this month.
On Feb. 8, a Missouri appeals court ruled that state law bars Missouri from issuing regulations under its air-pollution law before the federal government publishes details of its Clean Air Act. However, Missouri proposed essentially the same regulations in January under a different law.
Feb. 28 is the last day that the state must solicit public comment on the proposed regulations before issuing them. As of late last week, the Cole County Circuit Court hadn't ruled whether Missouri's attempt to issue the regulations under a different law is in contempt of court.
The battle began in September 1991, when the Missouri Hospital Association and Associated Industries of Missouri charged that state regulations were invalid. A 1979 state law said Missouri can't issue regulations under its air-pollution law that are stricter than federal regulations, said Gerald Sills, senior vice president and general counsel at MHA. The federal regulations haven't been published yet, Mr. Sills said.
Hospitals worry that conflicting state and federal rules will force them to take costly and unnecessary steps, Mr. Sills said. Many of the association's 140 members operate medical-waste incinerators, he said. In 1991, some members estimated that meeting state regulations would cost $500 to $500,000 per medical-waste incinerator, depending on the incinerator's condition.
In March 1993, a Cole County Circuit Court judge declared the rules illegal. Not only did they break the 1979 law, but they also didn't include a required fiscal note, which describes the cost of legislation to private parties. The state's appeal was denied earlier this month.
But the battle has shifted to Missouri's Solid Waste Management Law, not subject to the 1979 statute, the state Department of Natural Resources contends.
In fact, medical-waste incinerator regulations originally should have been issued under the law, said David Shorr, the department's director. That would be consistent with other state efforts to control pollution, Mr. Shorr said.