EPA will reconsider 2 Bush-era exemptions

Correction appended.

U.S. EPA announced yesterday that it would take a second look at two Bush-administration exemptions to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA.

The agency plans to withdraw regulations reclassifying some hazardous manufacturing byproducts as non-waste, which exempted those materials from RCRA disposal regulations.

The Bush administration's rules, which took effect in January, labeled waste burned in industrial boilers "emission-comparable fuel," or ECF, if its emissions are comparable to fuel oil emissions. The rules also set conditions under which wastes may be burned to ensure comparable emissions levels. The exemptions would have resulted in more than 100,000 tons of additional materials a year falling beyond RCRA, the nation's primary hazardous-waste law (E&ENews PM, Dec. 12, 2008).

EPA said it is responding to concerns raised by stakeholders about the rule but did not elaborate. An EPA spokeswoman failed to respond to requests for comment. EPA plans a November publication of its proposal in the Federal Register.


The environmental law firm Earthjustice has filed a lawsuit against the Bush rule, saying it would allow hazardous waste generators to bypass the regulatory system by burning fuels on their property rather than having it hauled to an incinerator designed to eliminate harmful emissions.

Industry groups have also been critical of the rule, saying detailed requirements to reclassify a material would limit the rule's effectiveness by preventing some companies from using it.

EPA also said it would hold a public hearing to determine whether it should reconsider another exemption that changes RCRA by excluding hazardous secondary materials from regulation. The materials excluded are those that are generated and reclaimed by the generator or transferred by a generator to a reclamation facility (Greenwire, Jan. 29).

The American Petroleum Institute and other industry groups support the rule, calling it a "positive development" that would eliminate unnecessary waste of resources and reduce the amount of hazardous waste being disposed.

Karen Matusic, an API spokeswoman, said her group is preparing comments for a public meeting that EPA is holding in June to discuss the issues surrounding the implementation of the rule.

But Lisa Evans, an attorney with Earthjustice, called the rule "a very big rollback in protections." She called EPA's announcement "monumental" and a "step forward" for ensuring that communities are protected from hazardous emissions.

"It flags a dramatic shift from the Bush EPA direction on hazardous waste," Evans said. "We realize these are not final decisions, but the direction is very encouraging."

Correction: U.S. EPA is not reconsidering an exemption that excludes hazardous secondary materials from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, it is holding a public meeting to decide whether or not to reconsider the exemption. An earlier version of the story gave incorrect information.

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