4 The record articles

Hazardous Waste Manifests – A Future Without Filing Cabinets?

Posted: November 19th, 2012

Author: All4 Staff 

On October 5, 2012 The Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act (ACT) was signed into law by President Obama.  This ACT amends Subtitle C of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6921 et seq.) by adding Section 3024 – Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest System.  This amendment requires U.S. EPA to promulgate regulations to carry out the ACT within one (1) year, and to have a hazardous waste electronic manifest system established within three (3) years.  Any regulation promulgated by U.S EPA under the ACT relating to electronic manifesting of hazardous waste will take effect in each State as of the effective date specified in the regulation, which means there will be no delays in applicability waiting for the Federal rule to be adopted by States into their hazardous waste programs.

As authorizing legislation, the ACT does not provide details on what the capabilities of the hazardous waste electronic manifest system will be, or how it might work.  Instead, the ACT anticipates that U.S. EPA will contract with information technology experts to develop and implement the electronic system.  It appears they will have their work cut out for them.  The ACT stipulates some specific requirements that the electronic manifest system must meet, to the same extent as paper manifests do.  These requirements include the following:

  • The ability to track and maintain legal accountability of both the person that certifies that the information provided in the manifest is accurately described and the person that acknowledges receipt of the manifest.
  • Access by State authorities to print out paper copies of a manifest from the system, if the manifest is electronically submitted.
  • Access to all publicly available information contained in the manifest.
  • Accommodation for the processing of data from paper manifests in the electronic manifest system, including a requirement that users of paper manifests submit to the system copies of the paper manifests for data processing purposes.    

As with any good authorizing legislation, the ACT also provides for the funding that will be necessary to pay for the hazardous waste electronic manifest system.  The ACT provides for the appropriation of “start-up” funding in the first three (3) years, which is to be offset by the collection of user fees.  The ACT further authorizes U.S. EPA to impose fees on users to pay the costs of developing, operating, maintaining, and upgrading the hazardous waste electronic manifest system, including any costs incurred in collecting and processing data from paper manifests submitted to the system after the date on which the system enters operation.  

To anyone who currently has to keep track of the multiple copies of hazardous waste manifests and their attachments, making sure that each copy is filed where it is supposed to be, the idea of an electronic system that can eliminate all that paper surely sounds inviting.  However, some of the specific language in the ACT indicates that all the paper handling may not be going away.  That language also seems to imply that there could be an option to stick with using only paper manifests, but even that option will come with additional burdens of submitting to the electronic system and paying fees. 

We obviously need to wait and see what U.S. EPA and its information technology contractors come up with to implement the requirements of the ACT.  A hazardous waste electronic manifest system could mean a future in which the efforts necessary to comply with manifesting requirements are streamlined.  On the other hand, based on just some of the language in the ACT, such a future could bring additional burden and cost to hazardous waste generators, transporters, and owner/operators of a hazardous waste treatment, storage, recycling, or disposal facilities.

Since the ACT gives U.S. EPA only one (1) year to promulgate regulations, we should be seeing a proposed rule published in the first half of 2013.  Anyone who manages hazardous waste in the United States will be affected, and so all potentially affected facilities should fully understand the rule upon proposal and be prepared to submit comments during the public comment period, as appropriate.


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