Review Articles


Last month, EPA released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to expand its coal combustion residues (CCR) rule. While inactive surface impoundments at inactive facilities were exempt from regulation in the original 2015 CCR rule, a 2018 court decision required EPA to bring them under federal control. The agency is using this ANPRM to collect information on legacy CCR surface impoundments to assist in the development of regulations for these units. Comments and data are being accepted until December 14, 2020. READ MORE

New procedures for managing guidance

EPA’s rule for managing guidance documents was finalized in October 2020. This administrative rule impacts not only how the agency develops guidance, but also how the public can petition for its modification, withdrawal, or reinstatement. EPA cites three benefits of this new rule: 1) guidance is developed with appropriate review, 2) accessibility and transparency are provided to the public, and 3) significant guidance documents are developed with public participation. READ MORE

Psst. PFAS guidance.

EPA’s current regulatory agenda includes proposing a rule to designate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as CERCLA hazardous substances. In the meantime, the agency has made interim recommendations on cleaning up groundwater contaminated with two of these chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonate. The guidance applies to federal cleanup activities under CERCLA and RCRA corrective action. READ MORE

Streamlined signing for e-manifests

Although the e-manifest system has been in use for more than two years, e-manifests (fully electronic and hybrid) represent less than 0.5 percent of the approximately two million manifests EPA receives annually. Responding to input from the e-Manifest Advisory Board, the agency will no longer require generators and transporters to go through the CROMERR validation process for their e-manifest signatures. READ MORE

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Rip van Guidance

Although twenty years old, recently released RO 14932 is still relevant. The 2000 guidance reaffirms EPA’s position from 1985, noting that sulfuric acid from a smelter’s metallurgical acid plant is a co-product, rather than a waste. If you are not working in the metal smelting industry, why should you care? Because a material designated by RCRA as a co-product, even if it is contaminated with heavy metals in excess of their toxicity characteristic levels, is still a nonwaste.

The next decade of corrective action

EPA’s RCRA corrective action (CA) program is the mechanism the agency uses to require the cleanup of RCRA-permitted treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. Since 1984, this program has resulted in the cleanup of thousands of sites throughout the country. Many of these facilities have spent millions of dollars to achieve their CA objectives. On September 1, 2020, EPA announced the program’s goals for the next ten years. READ MORE

State authorization of RCRA rules

A lot has changed since RCRA first started 40 years ago, and complying with new rules can be challenging. How do you know if the state you operate in has adopted a new rule or if the rule even needs to be adopted? If you can’t find the answer on your state environmental agency’s website, you can always use EPA’s authorization status tracker. The document includes the adoption and authorization status for rules promulgated under the base RCRA program and HSWA authority. READ MORE

That’s the fact sheets, Jack

Though a few years old, EPA’s generator improvements rule has been adopted by only about half of the RCRA-authorized states. Consequently, many generators are still getting used to the new requirements and are looking for a little guidance. To assist facilities, EPA updated its RCRA compliance fact sheets for both very small and large quantity generators. READ MORE

CCR closure rule finalized after 120,000-plus comments

The first final rule of 2020 dealing with the management of coal combustion residues (CCR) has been promulgated. Effective September 28, 2020, this rule finalizes several requirements for CCR unit closure and also addresses aspects of a 2018 court vacatur. We break down the five significant components of this CCR unit closure rule in our article. READ MORE

Waste FAQs relocated again

Recently, we noted that EPA had moved its waste FAQs database. As of August 2020, the Waste—Frequent Questions database has yet another new home. Most, if not all, of the guidance from the old waste FAQs database is in the new location, and there is still an option to submit a question. However, one function is missing from the new site; there is no longer an option to search through the entire database.

New non-waste fuel determination

EPA recently weighed in on another Part 241 non-waste fuel determination. The latest determination is for “waste” paper generated at certain pulp and paper facilities. Though the Part 241 regulations fall outside of the hazardous waste program, such determinations impact CAA compliance requirements. READ MORE

Appealing permits

In August 2020, EPA finalized an administrative rule that streamlines procedures during the appeal of various environmental permits. Challenging a RCRA, NPDES, SWDA, or CAA permit means a stint in front of the Environmental Appeals Board. The rule modifies many provisions governing how the board operates and grants the EPA Administrator a good deal of power regarding legal interpretations. READ MORE

Manifest signature alternatives policy extended

In May 2020, EPA released a memo providing flexibility regarding signatures on paper manifests due to impacts from COVID-19. We wrote about the impacts previously. In August, the agency released an additional memo, new RO 14936, which extends this flexibility until November 30, 2020. The memo contains three changes from the original policy: 1) shortening the required phrasing in Block 15, 2) changing the EPA policy reference in the generator’s signature substitute, and 3) removing language referencing the Temporary COVID-19 Enforcement Policy (terminated August 31) regarding recordkeeping.

New test methods included in SW–846 update

Update VII to SW–846 has arrived, making two specific changes to EPA’s compendium of solid waste sampling and test methods. First, the agency updated multiple methods stemming from the modernizing ignitable liquids determinations rule; among the updated methods are 1010B and 1020C, used to determine the flash point of liquids. Second, Method 8327 was added, which analyzes for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). While SW–846 contains methods for analyzing solid wastes, RCRA does not currently regulate PFAS. A second method for analyzing for PFAS, Method 3512, will soon be added; it now exists as an appendix to Method 8327.

Reduce holding times, increase accuracy

Adhering to recommended analytical sample holding times reduces error in the sample results. Reduced error equates to increased accuracy, meaning the end user of the analytical results, such as a hazardous waste generator, can perform a more accurate hazardous waste determination—a fundamental aspect of RCRA. May 2020 guidance from EPA clarifies holding time guidelines found in SW–846 and aligns these recommendations with other quality assurance programs. READ MORE

RCRA/MEBA interface a little less mercuric

While still having its uses in various scientific research applications, the market for elemental mercury has mostly dried up. A significant cause of this reduced demand is the Mercury Export Ban Act (MEBA). This law prohibits the export of elemental mercury from the United States and impacts facilities managing waste elemental mercury due to MEBA’s amalgam with the RCRA storage prohibition. New guidance from EPA discusses this confluence and the establishment of DOE’s long-term mercury storage facility. READ MORE

Waste FAQs have a new home

With the creation of EPA’s guidance portal, the agency is making changes to its other guidance databases. Guidance from the Waste—Frequent Questions database has been transferred to a new webpage, and the only remaining function on the old page is the ability to submit a question. While significant changes to other databases, like RCRA Online, have not yet been made, the agency may do so in the future. READ MORE

Update on e-manifesting

An e-Manifest Advisory Board public meeting was held April 14-16, 2020. The goal was to find ways of increasing e-manifest system usage, including reducing the administrative burden associated with generator and transporter e-signatures. After considering written and oral comments from regulatory agencies and industry, the board made several recommendations to EPA. READ MORE

RCRA rules on the horizon

The 2020 spring regulatory agenda is now available. EPA’s big efforts in the RCRA program are focused on coal combustion residue management, regulating PFAS under CERCLA, and improvements to the e-manifest system. READ MORE

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