EPA finalizes fee system for e-manifest users
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December 27, 2017
EPA finalizes fee system for e-manifest users

On June 30, 2018, the EPA will begin accepting electronic hazardous wastes manifests (e-manifests), a process that Congress set in motion in 2012 with passage of the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act (e-Manifest Act). Under the Act, the Agency was authorized to collect fees from users of the hazardous waste manifest to recover the full cost of developing and operating the e-manifest system. The EPA has now issued a final rule describing the methodology it will use to determine and revise the e-manifest user fees.  

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Paper still OK

Upon the June 2018 start-up date, users will be able to submit their manifests in either paper or electronic form. Given that nationwide, nearly 100,000 generators of hazardous waste make use of manifests, the final rule limits the payment of fees to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities and other facilities that receive waste shipped on a manifest. The EPA assumes that these facilities will pass these fees through to their generator customers as a part of their service agreement, “thus balancing the equities and burdens of the fee system without EPA’s further intervention.” Receiving facilities will get an electronic invoice each month displaying their manifest activity during the prior month, and each facility will be directed to the Department of the Treasury’s Pay.gov website to submit their electronic payments.

But e-manifests carry incentives

While the final rule does not prohibit the use of paper manifests, the Agency is taking several actions to encourage a full-scale shift to the electronic system. For example, even when paper manifests are submitted to the Agency, the receiving facility will be required to also submit a data file containing an image file (e.g., JAVA Script Object Notation, or JSON) of each manifest. The Agency estimates a $40.00 fee per manifest for this method during the first year of the program.

In contrast, the per manifest fee with electronic submission is estimated at $4.00. This fee would also apply to hybrid manifesting, which the Agency says is “by its nature an electronic manifest, with a narrow exception allowing the generator only to sign and retain a paper copy.” The assumption here is that the initial transporter and subsequent handlers would execute the same manifest electronically, presumably on portable devices, and all handlers subsequent to the generator would sign the electronic manifest with their electronic signatures.

To further incentivize a fully electronic system, the EPA says it plans to pivot to higher fees for paper manifest if electronic manifest use does not reach 75 percent in 4 years; the e-Manifest Act provides the EPA with broad discretion in deciding what the fees will be. Also, the EPA says it will schedule a phaseout of paper mail submissions after 3 years of system operations. The Agency says it believes this phaseout will assist those facilities that need time to adjust to electronic manifests and acquire and develop digital capability.

States must adopt system

States with authorized hazardous waste programs will be required to revise those programs to be equivalent to, consistent with, and no less stringent than the requirements of the final e-manifest user fee regulation. All state programs must adopt or reference appropriately in their state regulations certain fee methodology provisions of the e-manifest user fee rule so that users in all states are aware of their obligation to pay user fees to the EPA for e-manifest related services.

Export manifests not included

The final rule clarifies that the June 30, 2018, implementation date for e-manifests is limited to the collection of domestic hazardous waste manifests and domestic shipments of state-only regulated waste subject under state law to the RCRA manifest. The EPA says it will announce the implementation and compliance date for the electronic submission of export manifests in a separate notice to be issued in the future.

Nonfee matters

In addition, the final rule addresses the following matters, which are not user-fee related but which touch upon other aspects of the manifest system.

  • A requirement that allows certain changes to the routing of manifested waste shipments to be made while the shipment is in transportation.
  • A process to allow interested parties named on the manifest, such as hazardous waste generators, transporters, and receiving facilities to make corrections electronically to previously submitted manifest data.

The Agency estimates that the rule has the potential to save the regulated community $66 million per year when discounted at 7 percent and annualized over 6 years.

The prepublication version of the rule is final rule was published in the January 3, 2018 Federal Register.

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