EPA is proposing to revise regulations applicable to manufacturers whose operations generate hazardous waste. While certain of EPA’s proposed revisions may prove beneficial to such manufacturers, others may only complicate compliance efforts and increase costs.
EPA regulates the generation and management of hazardous waste pursuant to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) and related regulations, all which is administered in New Jersey by the Department of Environmental Protection. Pursuant to this program, hazardous waste generators are classified based upon the volume of hazardous waste generated and handled at a facility per month. Members of each generator category are subject to specific hazardous waste requirements pertaining to, among other issues, waste identification, accumulation, storage, discharge prevention, manifesting, transport, and disposal.
Since their promulgation several decades ago, the hazardous waste generator regulations have proven complex and rigid, causing States, the regulated community, and other stakeholders to constantly seek clarity from EPA. On August 31, 2015, the EPA proposed the “Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule” (the “Rule”) to address these concerns. The Rule proposes dozens of changes to the existing regulatory program. Chief among the proposed changes in the Rule are EPA’s proposals to allow a generator to episodically generate a larger monthly volume of hazardous waste under certain conditions without incurring additional costs, and to allow transfer of hazardous waste from one generator to another where the two are under common control.
Although the above changes may benefit manufacturers, and despite EPA’s characterization of the Rule as “a much-needed update to the hazardous waste generator regulations to make the rules easier to understand [and] facilitate better compliance,” many other proposed changes may actually complicate an already intricate regulatory scheme at greater cost. For example, the Rule proposes changes that would require increased documentation regarding waste identification, impose enhanced reporting requirements upon certain generators, require additional labelling of waste containers, and expand the scope of current recordkeeping and personnel training requirements. Further, certain of EPA’s statements within the preamble to the Rule indicate that even minor compliance lapses with respect to both the proposed and the current RCRA regulations must be treated as serious violations requiring full enforcement action.
New Jersey manufacturers that generate and handle hazardous waste at their facilities should familiarize themselves with the proposed revisions within the Rule, EPA’s related statements, and the potential practical effects upon their businesses. EPA will accept comments regarding the Rule until November 24, 2015.