EPA Issues Final Rule Narrowing RCRA Definition of Solid Waste
On October 7, 2008, the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") issued a new final rule amending the definition of "solid waste" in its regulations promulgated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA") to exclude certain types of recycled materials and reclamation operations from the statute's extensive hazardous waste requirements. The final rule includes specific criteria for determining whether secondary materials fall within the newly promulgated exclusions, and also provides a process for obtaining case-specific determinations that certain materials do not qualify as solid waste.
The final rule is intended to make beneficial recycling operations easier and more cost-effective by simplifying the regulation of reclaimed hazardous materials, which EPA hopes will in turn result in energy savings and resource conservation. It remains to be seen, however, if these intended benefits will indeed be realized, given the limited scope of the rule and the ability of each of the states to decline to adopt similar exclusions at the state level. The final rule is scheduled to go into effect on December 29, 2008.