EPA is poised to publish a proposed rule revising regulations applicable to hazardous waste generators under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. § 6901 et seq. (RCRA).  The proposed rule, which has not yet been published in the Federal Register, represents a significant overhaul of the RCRA generator regulations.  EPA states that the purpose of the proposed rule is to make the regulations easier to understand, facilitate compliance, provide greater flexibility in the management of hazardous waste, and close important gaps in the regulations.

Currently under RCRA, there are three categories of generators based on the quantity of waste they generate: Large Quantity Generators (LQGs), Small Quantity Generators (SQGs) and Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQGs).  The proposed rule would replace the term CESQG with Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQGs).  The generator quantities would not change, but the new term reflects the fact that all categories of generators are conditionally exempt from obtaining a RCRA disposal permit, provided they comply with certain parameters.

The proposed rule also provides some leniency for generators that produce larger quantities of hazardous waste as a result of an episodic event.  A generator would be allowed to maintain its existing generator category even if, as the result of an expected or unexpected episode, the generator generates enough waste to bump the facility into a more stringent category.  A generator would be able to take advantage of this episodic exception once in each calendar year.

The proposed rule would also allow VSQGs to send their waste to LQGs under the control of the same person, provided the facilities meet certain conditions.  The waste from the VSQGs would then be subject to the LQG rules, including notification, recordkeeping and reporting, and labeling, and all wastes at the LQG facility would be uniformly managed.  States would be free to have more stringent rules preventing these waste transfers, and in the event that waste is to be transported across state lines, the generators would need to ensure that both states allow for the transfer.

There are a number of other proposed changes and revisions to the regulations, including more specificity around hazardous waste determinations.  According to EPA, various studies have shown that generators are not properly classifying hazardous waste.  The proposed regulations would provide more detail about how to make these determinations, including a proposal to create an electronic system to help generators navigate through the process.

The proposed revisions are too numerous to recount in this post, but suffice to say, if they become final, they will represent a significant shift for all RCRA generators.  The proposed rule is expected to be published any day in the Federal Register.