EPA Issues Final Rule Authorizing the Use of Electronic Manifests for Hazardous Waste

On January 13, 2014, EPA issued its final rule authorizing the use of electronic manifests for hazardous wastes. The rule implements provisions of the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act (“Act”) signed into law in 2012, which directed EPA to establish a national electronic manifest system for tracking hazardous waste. Although the final rule has been promulgated, the electronic system to handle electronic manifests will not be available until 2015 at the earliest.

The purpose for creating a national electronic manifest system, referred to as “e-Manifest” is to facilitate the electronic transmission of the uniform manifest form and make the use of the uniform manifest much more cost-effective and convenient for users. The Act envisions a system implemented by EPA in partnership with industry and states designed to centrally collect the data from electronic and paper manifests for all federally and state regulated wastes that require manifests. The use of electronic manifests is optional to the user.

The promulgation of the final rule is the first step in creating the system. Hazardous waste handlers cannot begin using electronic manifests and tracking their hazardous waste shipments electronically until EPA sets up the e-Manifest system which is required to be on line by October 5, 2015. EPA is also required to create a System Advisory Board in the same three year timeframe to advise EPA on system performance and user fees.

Although the rule takes effect 180 days after publication in the Federal Register, deadlines for implementation and compliance will be delayed until the e-Manifest system is operational and a fee schedule announced. EPA estimates that the rule affects approximately 140 entities in 45 industries involved in transport and shipping of 5.9 million tons of RCRA hazardous waste annually. These entities use between 4.6 and 5.6 million EPA Waste Manifests to track waste shipments. Eventually, it is expected that electronic manifests will replace paper. One potential hurdle to the establishment of the e-Manifest system is the fact that EPA has not received the funding appropriated for the project.

Susanne Peticolas is a Director in the Gibbons Real Property & Environmental Department.

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