Overhaul of Municipal and Residual Waste Regulations Suspended; More Limited Changes Anticipated

December 8, 2009
by MICHAEL MELOY
Client Alert Newsletter December 2009

Pennsylvania's multi-year efforts to consolidate and overhaul the existing municipal and residual waste regulations have come to a halt. In 2006, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ("PADEP") began the daunting task of attempting to consolidate the municipal and residual waste regulations while maintaining separate requirements for the two distinct categories of non-hazardous wastes in Pennsylvania. In addition, PADEP included in this process numerous substantive changes to the existing regulations, many of which were quite controversial. PADEP worked with a number of organizations and stake-holder groups to solicit input regarding the proposed changes to the regulations.

PADEP expected during 2009 to present to the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board ("EQB") for approval a package of thousands of pages of proposed regulations. However, the process has ground to a halt. With a change in administration looming next year, prospects for moving forward with the proposed regulations in the near term appear to be remote.

Instead of proceeding with the massive regulatory overhaul that was originally envisioned, PADEP has indicated that it hopes to extract from the larger regulatory package several limited sets of proposed amendments to the municipal and residual waste regulations that can be considered by the EQB on an expedited basis. These proposed amendments are expected to include changes to Pennsylvania's regulations governing infectious and chemotherapeutic waste, and Pennsylvania's regulations governing the responsibilities of generators of residual waste.

Since 1992, generators of residual waste in Pennsylvania have been subject to extensive chemical analysis, record-keeping and paperwork requirements. PADEP has signaled that it is considering changes to the existing regulations that will eliminate certain of these requirements and streamline still other requirements. For example, PADEP has indicated that it plans to dispense with the need to prepare source reduction strategies. Accordingly, on balance, the proposed amendments to the residual waste generator requirements are likely to be viewed in a favorable light by the regulated community. However, whether the proposed amendments can be completed in time to make it through the regulatory process before the end of the current administration next year remains to be seen.