New EPA Rule Reduces RCRA Reporting Requirements

July 7, 2008 — 1,459 views  

On April 4, 2006, EPA published a new rule regarding federal hazardous waste regulations in an effort to reduce recordkeeping, reporting, and inspection requirements imposed on businesses, states, and the public. See 71 Fed. Reg. 16862 (Apr. 4, 2006). The new rule, which becomes effective May 4, 2006, is intended to reduce the paperwork burden imposed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Industries affected by the new rule include manufacturing, transportation, waste treatment, utilities and mineral processing operations.

Although billed as a paperwork reduction measure, the new regulations will significantly alter the way many affected businesses conduct their operations. It also will make compliance with many RCRA requirements less onerous. In our experience of counseling and defending businesses on RCRA compliance matters, recordkeeping, reporting and inspection requirements that may seem very simple often lead to significant non-compliance issues when not followed very carefully.

Among other things, the final rule changes the amount of time records must be kept, modifies engineer qualifications, eliminates certain recordkeeping and reporting requirements, and decreases self-inspection frequencies for certain hazardous waste facilities.

Records Retention

RCRA requires that certain records for hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities be retained for the life of the facility. The final rule reduces the length of time waste handlers must retain certain records onsite to three years, or five years for hazardous waste combustion units. Reduced retention time applies to waste analyses, certain monitoring, testing and analytical data, waste determinations, selected certifications and notifications. Records pertaining to groundwater monitoring and cleanup continue to be subject to current requirements.

Professional Engineer Certification

The new rule also changes the requirements regarding the required certification by a professional engineer of certain documents for generators of hazardous waste and treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. Previously, the regulations required the retention of engineers who are independent, qualified, registered, and professional. The new rule deletes the terms “independent” and “registered.”

Decreased Inspection Frequency

The final rule permits waste handlers to reduce required facility and equipment self-inspections for hazardous waste tank systems from daily to weekly under certain conditions. Small-quantity waste generator tank system owners and operators may reduce the tank inspection frequency if the tank systems have secondary containment with either leak detection equipment or "established workplace practices" that ensure prompt detection of releases.

Records Submission and Employee Training

Under the new rule, waste handlers who previously had to both keep certain records onsite and submit them to EPA now only need to keep those records onsite. In addition, waste handlers will have the option of complying with requirements of either RCRA or the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for training employees in emergency response procedures. Facilities not subject to OSHA training requirements will have to comply with the RCRA training requirements.

Contingency Plan

Owners and operators of hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities also will have the option of developing one contingency plan per facility, following the Integrated Contingency Plan Guidance. EPA believes this will eliminate the confusion for facilities that must decide which contingency plan is applicable to a particular emergency. EPA also believes that using a single plan will enable first responders, such as firefighters, to comply with multiple regulatory requirements, thereby easing the burden of coordinating with local emergency planning committees.

Decreased Document Submission Requirements

Another provision of the final rule eliminates a requirement that facilities submit a tank system certification of completion of major repairs. In addition, the final rule requires recyclers to prepare and maintain notifications and certifications only with their initial shipments of waste. New documentation is required only when the waste, the treatment process, or the receiving facility changes. Information will be kept in the treating or recycling facility's onsite files, and must be available for inspection.

EPA estimates the annual hour savings to range from 22,000 to 37,500 hours, with an annual cost savings from $2 million to $3 million.

Morrison & Foerster LLP