EPA Publishes Final Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule

On November 28, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") published the final RCRA Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule ("HWGI Rule"). See 81 FR 85732, November 28, 2016. The HWGI Rule is one of the most significant and comprehensive hazardous waste rulemakings that EPA has promulgated since the mid-1980s. This regulation affects all hazardous waste generators regardless of size, industry or location in the United States.  The rule is over 300 pages and includes a number of changes to 40 C.F.R. parts 260-265, 268, 270 and 279. 

The HWGI Rule updates the hazardous waste generator requirements to make them easier to understand.  It is intended to facilitate better compliance, provide greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed, and close important gaps in the regulations. Id.  The HWGI Rule also notably reorganizes and consolidates the current rules so that the requirements for each generator category are in separate rule sections. Two key provisions of the rule are intended to provide flexibility for generators by allowing a hazardous waste generator to avoid increased burden of a higher generator status when generating episodic waste provided the episodic waste is properly managed, and by allowing a very small quantity generator ("VSQG"), formerly known as a conditionally-exempt small quantity generator ("CESQG"), to send its hazardous waste to a large quantity generator under the control of the same person. Some additional highlights of the HWGI Rule include:

•     A new waiver option for facilities storing ignitable and reactive wastes within 50 feet of the property line;
•     A requirement for quadrennial small quantity generator notifications (which are due September 1, 2021)
•    A requirement to document all hazardous waste determinations (EPA removed the proposed requirement to document non-hazardous waste determinations, but be aware of the practical need for maintaining waste determinations for non-hazardous industrial waste streams, and of individual state requirements);
•    Changes in labeling requirements; and
•    Clarifications regarding satellite accumulation and central accumulation (90-day and 180-day storage) requirements.

The HWGI Rule goes into effect May 30, 2017.

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