Hazardous Waste Issues

For more information or updates, please contact Robert Helminiak.


Definition of Solid Waste

Most Recent Status
The revised Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) rule was proposed in July 2011, finalized in December 2014, and published in the Federal Register on January 13, 2015. The rule went into effect on July 13. Both industry and environmental groups sued EPA in May 2015, challenging various aspects of the new rule. SOCMA joined other industry groups in filing a Petition to Intervene in the latest legal case in order to help EPA defend the final rule, and that legal fight continues in 2016.

The final rule retains SOCMA’s top priorities, including the Remanufacturing Exclusion and the Tolling exclusion. While EPA mandated all four legitimacy criteria, the agency added new language that should significantly mitigate those provisions for most SOCMA members. 

Background on Definition of Solid Waste
View a PowerPoint presentation for more information about the final rule.


Comparable Fuels Exclusion

The Comparable Fuels Exclusion, established in June 1998, changed the standards to exclude certain hazardous-waste derived fuels from the regulatory definition of solid waste. It excluded from Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous wastes burned for energy recovery when those wastes could be burned more cleanly than the fossil fuels that the unit would otherwise burn.  EPA and industry contended that excluding these wastes from RCRA was actually environmentally preferable to regulating them, because they substitute for nonrenewable fossil fuels, and the extraction and burning of those fuels would actually produce equal or greater air pollution than burning the wastes in question.  

EPA proposed expanding the exclusion in 2007, and the proposal was finalized in December 2008 during the waning days of the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration proposed withdrawing this new rule in December 2009, and that withdrawal was finalized in June 2010.

Most Recent Status
At the end of June 2014, a federal court issued an opinion that struck down the comparable fuels exemption from RCRA that EPA established in 1998. EPA published a final rule in the Federal Register on April 8, 2015, which implemented the court’s vacatur of the Comparable Fuels Rule. 


Hazardous Waste Manifest

Most Recent Status
EPA published a final rule authorizing the use of e-manifests in February 2014, a rulemaking mandated by Congress.  

EPA published a final rule authorizing the use of e-manifests in February 2014, a rule mandated by Congress.

In October 2012, President Obama signed The Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act into law. The Act authorized EPA to create an electronic manifest system for the transportation of hazardous waste. EPA had first proposed such a system in 2001 and refined its proposal in 2006 and 2008, but it had not been able to finalize the system without congressional action.

In addition to requiring EPA to issue a regulation authorizing use of the manifests within one year after the act is passed, The act required that the e-Manifest Information Technology (IT) system be up and running within three years after the act is passed. The law also directed EPA to establish a System Advisory Board within three years after the act is passed in order to advise the EPA on system performance and user fees. The act authorizes EPA to collect reasonable user fees for all system related costs including development and maintenance.)  Hazardous waste handlers cannot begin tracking their hazardous waste shipments electronically until the system is finalized; the new law called for the system to be online by October 5, 2015.  EPA estimates that the new system will reduce the burden associated with preparing shipping manifests by between 300,000 and 700,000 hours, and result in cost savings of more than $75 million per year for states and industry

SOCMA had long believed an electronic and Internet manifest option was necessary to simplify the hazardous waste manifesting process. At a minimum, SOCMA believes the old hazardous waste manifest form had been ripe for simplification and standardization. Many SOCMA member facilities are relatively smaller and have limited resources to attend to administrative and paperwork requirements.Reducing the time required to track and comply with manifest requirements will enhance the ability of companies to focus on more substantive environmental management activities.


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