Major Changes Coming to PA Residual and Municipal Waste Regulations

January 16, 2008
by MICHAEL MELOY
Client Alert Newsletter Forecast 2008

In 2008, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ("PADEP") will continue to forge ahead with efforts to rewrite its municipal and residual waste regulations. During the past several months, PADEP has presented to the Solid Waste Advisory Committee ("SWAC") multiple packages of draft regulatory amendments. The amendments would affect virtually all aspects of the municipal and residual waste regulations, and have important ramifications for the regulated community in Pennsylvania.

Since the adoption of the municipal and residual waste regulations in 1988 and 1992, respectively, Pennsylvania has had separate municipal and residual waste regulatory programs. While the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act ("SWMA") distinguishes between municipal and residual wastes, the municipal and residual waste regulations contain many provisions that are substantially similar, particularly with respect to permitting and performance standards for waste processing and disposal facilities. These similarities have led PADEP to attempt to consolidate the municipal and residual waste regulations into a single regulatory package while retaining the distinctions between residual and municipal wastes provided for under the SWMA.

Merging two very large sets of regulations is a daunting challenge under the best of circumstances, even when substantial similarities between the two sets exist. In this case, the process has become even more complex for at least two reasons. First, the statutory distinction between residual and municipal wastes continues to permeate the draft regulations, meaning that the combined package continues to have requirements specific to residual wastes on the one hand and municipal wastes on the other. Second, PADEP is not only merely attempting to merge the two sets of regulations, but is also proposing numerous important substantive changes at the same time. Many, but by no means all, of the substantive changes under consideration are an outgrowth of the Residual Waste Redux initiative completed several years ago, and are intended to promote recycling and waste reduction. The foregoing factors raise significant challenges for both PADEP and the regulated community in attempting to distinguish between changes resulting merely from reorganizing and moving regulatory provisions and changes instead meant to alter the nature and scope of current requirements.

PADEP has set an aggressive schedule for moving forward with the proposed regulatory amendments, with a target of submitting the amendments to the Environmental Quality Board for approval later this year as proposed rules.