EPA Establishes Fees for e-Manifest System
A final rule establishing fees for the EPA’s e-Manifest system was published in the Federal Register on January 3, 2018. Under the authority of the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act of 2012, the rule establishes the methodology to be used by EPA in setting and revising user fees for the system, which is expected to begin operating on June 30, 2018.
Since the launch date is rapidly approaching, let’s review the background of e-Manifest system, its advantages for hazardous waste handlers, and the fee structure established by the new final rule.
EPA has required shipment of wastes under manifest since the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) first became active in 1980. Manifests enable the “cradle to crave” management of waste by tracking it from the time it leaves the generator’s facility to the point at which it is received by a Treatment Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF), which in turn helps protect human health and the environment.
The system always had its limitations, as anyone who’s ever managed hazardous waste for their establishment can attest. Think about all of those binders, filled with crinkled manifest papers printed off dot matrix printers, and how the manifests never quite fit in the binders. Then think about all of the paper and energy consumed in making photocopies of those manifests for submission to state regulatory agencies, and then forcing paper copies of return manifests into an already stuffed binder. It’s a cumbersome and expensive system.
Limitations of paper manifests can also potentially impact safety. For instance, consider what might happen if a transport vehicle carrying hazardous waste is involved in an accident. First responders would not have access to the detailed information about the shipment within the manifests unless they could access the truck cab, or contact the generator or shipper by phone. The truck would of course have the placards required by Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, but the lack of detailed information could complicate or slow down emergency response actions.
To address some of these longstanding issues, EPA created an alternative to traditional paper manifests with the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act of 2012. While use of the system is voluntary, EPA encourages its use and believes it will be increasingly adopted due to its advantages over old paper manifests.
EPA estimates that e-Manifest system will ultimately reduce the time required to prepare manifests by between 300,000 and 700,000 hours, saving state and industry users $75-90 million annually.
Overall benefits of the E-Manifest include:
- Cost savings;
- Accurate and more timely information on waste shipments, including potentially improved availability during emergency response;
- Rapid notification of discrepancies or other problems related to a particular shipment;
- Creation of a single hub for one-stop reporting of manifest data for use by EPA and states;
- Increased effectiveness of compliance monitoring of waste shipments by regulators; and
- The potential for integrating manifest reporting with Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) biennial reporting process and other federal and state information systems.
Additionally, the e-Manifest system will be linked to RCRAInfo and will have the ability to validate information entered on an electronic manifest against the corresponding information in RCRAInfo — improving the quality of information available to the general public. It should also be noted that the system will not only collect information on wastes regulated as hazardous by EPA, but also those wastes regulated as hazardous by state definitions, since they are still required to be shipped via manifest.
So, What Does the New Final Rule Do?
It goes without saying that building a new web-based system capable of handling large volumes of electronic manifest data generates a significant cost. Section 2(c) of the e-Manifest Act conferred broad discretion to EPA to impose fees on users of the system to pay for these costs, including the administrative costs of processing any paper manifest submissions that continue to be received after the system is up and running.
The e-Manifest user fee final rule addresses how fees associated with use of the system will be assessed, and who must pay them. The fees are estimated to range from $4 for each electronic manifest submission to $20 for paper copies, but the actual fees might be slightly different once the hosting infrastructure for the system is implemented later this year.
EPA established the fees based on whether manifests are submitted electronically or via paper, to reflect the varying costs of these options and incentivize use of the electronic system. EPA determined that the most efficient way to collect fees is require the TSDFs and state facilities receiving the waste to pay them.
According to the final rule, “the submission of the final copy of the manifest signed by the receiving facility” is the primary billable event in the process. This means that generators do not have to pay fees, and neither do members of the general public who use the system to access hazardous waste information. However, it is expected that TSDFs may incrementally raise their service rates to offset the cost of the fees.
The Bottom Line
The new final rule establishing fees is a major step needed to implement the e-Manifest system. EPA initially proposed to transition from paper to electronic-based manifests in 2001, and according to the agency, many stakeholders over the years have expressed support for the initiative. The expected benefits include cost savings, improved waste shipment information, faster notifications of discrepancies, and improved compliance monitoring.
The result will be a modernized system that ultimately benefits all users, from the generator to the TSDF to the members of the general public. If you have responsibility for managing hazardous waste shipments at your facility, the e-Manifest system will likely make your life much easier than it’s been in the era of burdensome paper manifests.
Let VelocityEHS Help!
There has never been a better time than now to get a handle on your waste program and prepare for the upcoming e-manifest initiative. VelocityEHS offers sophisticated, yet easy-to-use solutions that help streamline every aspect of waste management, from simplified tracking of waste streams, accumulation limits and generator status, to enhanced container management, shipping & manifesting, recordkeeping and automated reporting. Visit our website or give us a call at 1.866.919.7922 to learn how Waste Compliance solutions from VelocityEHS can help your business improve your waste management practices and stay in compliance.