EPA Releases Final Rule on Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements
November 8, 2016 •
On Oct. 28, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the pre-publication copy of its Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements final regulation, which amends the regulations governing hazardous waste generators under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Many ACA companies are regulated under RCRA. The final rule will be published in the Federal Register in the coming weeks.
After consolidating the feedback from the regulated community, states and other stakeholders, EPA developed a proposal it says will improve the entire hazardous waste generator program to strengthen environmental protection while ensuring businesses have the flexibility and certainty they need to successfully operate. ACA had submitted comments in response to the proposed rule almost a year ago, on Dec. 24, 2015. ACA, along with many other industries, cautioned that many of EPA’s proposed changes, while intended to improve clarity and flexibility, will actually add unnecessary burdens, including recordkeeping, labeling and notification, as well as confusion for hazardous waste generators, with little benefit to human health or the environment.
According to EPA, the rule finalizes a much-needed update to the hazardous waste generator regulations to make the rules “easier to understand, facilitate better compliance, provide greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed, and close important gaps in the regulations.”
In addition to finalizing key flexibilities, the rule enhances the safety of facilities, employees, and the general public by improving hazardous waste risk communication and ensuring that emergency management requirements meet today’s needs. Further, EPA is finalizing a number of clarifications without increasing burden including a reorganization of the hazardous waste generator regulations so that all of the generator regulations are in one place.
According to EPA, the final rule includes approximately 60 changes to the hazardous waste generator regulations. Some examples of the changes in the final rule include the following:
- Allowing very small quantity generators (VSQGs) to send hazardous waste to a large quantity generator (LQG) that is under the control of the same person and consolidate it there before sending it on to management at a RCRA-designated facility, provided certain conditions are met.
- Allowing a VSQG or a small quantity generator (SQG) to maintain its existing generator category in the case of an episodic event that would otherwise bump the generator into a more stringent generator regulatory category.
- Requiring periodic re-notification for SQGs every four years (SQGs only notify once under the current federal system). States with more frequent re-notifications can retain their existing requirements.
- Improving risk communication by revising the regulations for labeling and marking of containers and tanks to indicate the hazards of the hazardous waste contained inside.
- Replacing the phrase “conditionally exempt small quantity generator” with the phrase “very small quantity generator” to be consistent with the other two generator categories—large quantity generators and small quantity generators.
- Reorganizing the hazardous waste generator regulations by moving VSQG regulations from § 261.5 into 40 CFR part 262, where the regulations for SQGs and LQGs are located, and by moving many of the generator regulations that are currently located in other parts of the hazardous waste standards into part 262 to replace the current lists of cross references.
- Revising the regulations for completing the RCRA biennial report to be consistent with the current instructions distributed with the form.
- Revising generator regulations to do with closure, waste determinations, submitting contingency plans, and other emergency preparedness and prevention areas.
- In addition to the above, making technical corrections to inadvertent errors in the regulations, obsolete programs, and unclear citations.
EPA is not finalizing certain provisions it proposed, responding to adverse public comments. These include documentation of non-hazardous waste determinations; maintaining hazardous waste determinations until the facility closes; notification to the state or EPA of closure of a waste accumulation unit at a facility; requiring labeling hazardous waste units with the contents of the container; certain revisions to the drip pad requirements; and documentation of weekly inspections. ACA opposed many of these amendments in the proposed rule.
The rule will be effective six (6) months after the date it is published in the Federal Register. For non-authorized RCRA states (Alaska, Iowa, the Indian Nations, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, N. Mariana and US Virgin Islands), the rule will go into effect on that 6-month effective date. RCRA authorized states will have to adopt rules and become authorized for the new provisions. These states are only required to adopt the provisions in this final rule that are more stringent than the current RCRA regulations.
EPA will be hosting two webinars open to the public to discuss the final rule in the upcoming months. The webinars will be held:
- Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 2:00 pm
- Monday, Dec. 5 at 2:00 pm
Register for the webinars at https://clu-in.org/conf/tio/hwgenerators/.
Contact ACA’s Javaneh Nekoomaram for more information.