EPA Issues Final Rule for Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest System
EPA has finalized a rule that provides the legal and policy framework for the agency to develop a national electronic manifest (e-Manifest) system for tracking shipments of hazardous waste. EPA first proposed an e-Manifest system in 2001, with subsequent information gathering activities in 2004, 2006 and 2008. In 2012, Congress enacted the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act (e-Manifest Act) which required EPA to finalize regulations authorizing an e-Manifest system by 2013 and to establish an e-Manifest system for use by Oct. 2, 2015. The final rule specifies that electronic manifests will have the legal equivalence of paper manifests, sets criteria for electronic signatures, allows for a fee structure, and allows continued use of paper manifests. EPA will soon begin the procurement process to select a contractor to build and operate the e-Manifest system. In its press release, EPA stated, “the national e-Manifest system will ultimately reduce the burden associated with preparing shipping manifests by between 300,000 and 700,000 hours, and result in cost savings of more than $75 million per year for states and industry.”
The rule allows electronic manifests to be used if all waste handlers named on the manifest participate in the e-Manifest system. According to EPA, the e-Manifest system will be limited to the electronic formats that will replace the paper manifest form. The rule does not address submission of other RCRA forms that may accompany the manifest such as: notices and certifications required by the Land Disposal Restrictions program; EPA Acknowledgement of Consent to export; or, Exceptions Reports and Discrepancy Reports. Those documents will continue to be submitted as currently required.
In the final rule preamble, EPA stated that once the e-Manifest system is available, electronic manifests will be the expected means for tracking hazardous waste shipments unless paper is requested and used by a waste handler that opts out of the electronic manifest. The e-manifest system will collect manifest data from both paper and electronic manifests by requiring designated facilities receiving paper manifests to submit a copy of the manifest to the system for data processing. Thus, the e-Manifest system will establish a national repository of manifest data and a means to share that data with RCRA authorized states, first responders, and others.
As authorized by the e-Manifest Act, EPA will develop a fee schedule through rulemaking that will support the cost of the system. EPA stated that it will assess what measures might be effective to expedite the transition from paper manifests to electronic manifests and may take input on fee incentives or other means to expedite the transition. Although the final regulation is effective as a final agency action on Aug. 6, 2014, the implementation and compliance date will be delayed until the system is operational and a fee schedule has been developed.
To view a complete PDF of the Environmental Letter March 2014 Issue, click HERE.