WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this month issued a final rule that is a crucial step in the development of a national electronic manifest (e-Manifest) system, which will upgrade the current paper-based system of tracking hazardous waste to an electronic one.
“Today’s action is a key step in bringing the oversight of these potentially dangerous materials into the 21st century,” said Mathy Stanislaus, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “Once fully implemented, the national e-Manifest system will provide greater access for emergency responders to information about the types and sources of hazardous waste that are in transit between generator sites and waste management facilities.”
The final rule authorizes the use of e-Manifests to track hazardous wastes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. This will allow the current process, which requires paper forms, to be streamlined and greatly reduce the millions of paper manifests produced each year.
The Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act requires EPA to issue a regulation authorizing the use of electronic manifests as the legal equivalent of the current paper manifest forms used to track shipments of hazardous waste from a generator’s site to the ultimate site of disposal. EPA’s goal is to promote the greatest possible use of electronic manifests.
The e-Manifest program is the vanguard of the agency-wide initiative to develop new tools to reduce the reporting burden on regulated entities, and provide the agency, states and the public with easier access to environmental data. EPA estimates 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. In line with the agency’s e-Enterprise principles, the e-Manifest system will significantly improve access to higher quality and more timely waste shipment data, and will empower communities through increased transparency and more accurate information on completed waste shipments and management trends.
The final rule will establish the legal and policy framework for using electronic manifests; however, several more steps will be needed before the e-Manifest program can be implemented. These include establishing the system and initial fee structure. This year, EPA will work with states, industry and other stakeholders to develop plans for the many key aspects of the system and address concerns of intersystem compatibility. The Agency will also begin developing the initial fee structure of the system, including implementation and compliance dates, through a rulemaking. Stakeholders and interested parties will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule when it becomes available.
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