WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency should spend no more money on surveys that debate the merits of bottle bills because plenty of literature exists already, according to a report issued by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee. A 176-word paragraph in the 140-page Appropriations Committee report making the assertion is tucked into the bill that funds the EPA for fiscal year 1996. The paragraph refers directly to a Tellus Institute of Resource and Environmental Strategies study completed last fall that ``reviews the literature on the costs and benefits of bottle bills.'' Tellus is based in Boston.
The report is nonbinding but often is considered valuable by lawmakers brought together to iron out differences between House and Senate versions of the same legislation.
The Appropriations Committee report said, ``The fundamental conclusion of the review is that traditional bottle bills are not effective.''
The key word here is ``traditional,'' because the Tellus report also notes in some ideal cases, bottle bills can be effective if greater community involvement in bottle collection and the value of ``societal benefits'' are factored in.
The report continues, ``It is the committee's judgment that because so many states have adopted bottle legislation, the need for federal dollars to pay for yet another study was unwarranted. This is the type of study that should be declined in the future, and the committee notes that no funding has been requested or provided to continue any work in this regard.''
The appropriation bill's report language, released July 21, had not ruffled many feathers at the EPA.
Claire Lindsey, a deputy in the EPA municipal and industrial solid waste division, said of the paragraph in the report she had ``seen it and read it,'' but added ``I don't know why it's there.
``They [Tellus] have done a lot of work for us,'' Lindsey said. Although unable to recount the number and cost of Tellus surveys in the recent past, Lindsey said the agency depends on ``hundreds of contractors'' to produce environment and recycling-related studies.
Completed over 18 months at a cost of $20,000, the most recent Tellus bottle bill report asserted deposit container requirements could, under ideal conditions, make money for local governments.
E. Gifford Stack, vice president for environmental affairs for Washington-based National Soft Drink Association, headed a coalition opposed to the Tellus report's findings. Stack said coalition members visited congres-sional offices in opposition to the government's use of the study.
``To extrapolate and build any policy on [the Tellus study] would be a mistake,'' Stack said.
Stack said officials of the Glass Packaging Institute of Washington were the authors and prime movers of the report's bottle bill language. But, Nathan Tyler, GPI manager of recycling and legislative affairs, denied writing the language or having any more influence with the committee than any other member of the anti-bottle bill coalition.
The American Plastics Council of Washington did not hear about the bottle bill language until after it appeared in the Appropriations Committee report, said spokesman Jimmy Hendricks.
``I don't anticipate us taking any action,'' he said.
Edgar Miller, director of policy and programs for Washington-based National Recycling Coalition, noted the report language ``seems to be the exact type of thing the Republicans are calling for in their calls for cost-benefit analyses of government programs. But they eliminate funding for studies needed to determine costs and benefits.''