Final Rule: Hazardous Waste Export-Import Revisions

Rule Summary

The EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, signed the Hazardous Waste Export-Import Revisions final rule on October 28, 2016 and it was published in the Federal Register (FR) on November 28, 2016.

This rule is effective in all states on December 31, 2016 in order to comply with Executive Order 13659. Implementation will be phased in.

With this rule, EPA finalized changes to existing regulations regarding the export and import of hazardous wastes from and into the United States. The final rule will provide greater protection to human health and the environment by providing for increased transparency, data sharing and more efficient compliance monitoring for international shipments.

The final rule establishes:

  • Improved export and import shipment tracking;
  • One consolidated and streamlined set of requirements applying to all imports and exports;
  • Mandatory electronic reporting to EPA; and
  • Linking the consent to export with the electronic export information submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

These new requirements strengthen tracking of and reporting on individual export and import shipments, and are responsive to the concerns raised by EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. This action also brings the United States into compliance with its legal obligations under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 2001 Council Decision, and complies with Executive Order 13659 on streamlining the export/import process for U.S. businesses. Lastly, this action establishes appropriate transition periods to provide for implementation while minimizing the burden of implementing new requirements.

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Rule History

The movement of hazardous waste in and out of the United States for recovery or disposal represents about one percent of all U.S. hazardous waste shipments. International waste shipments are conducted for a number of reasons, including:

  • geographic proximity,
  • economies of scale, and
  • international market demand for recovered materials.

EPA has established and administers an extensive set of regulations, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), governing the shipment of hazardous waste within the United States. In addition to its domestic regulation of hazardous waste, the United States participates in a number of bilateral waste agreements between countries and in a multilateral waste agreement controlling the shipment of hazardous waste for recovery between member countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The OECD was established in 1960 to assist member countries in achieving sustainable growth, employment and increased standard of living, while simultaneously ensuring the protection of human health and the environment. As part of this goal, the OECD provided an initial framework or decision, in 1992, for member countries to control the transboundary shipment of waste for recovery. In 2001, the OECD amended the 1992 Council decision to harmonize its procedures and requirements with those of the Basel Convention, an international treaty that governs the shipment of hazardous waste on a global level.

Since the United States supported the OECD Decision in 2001 and is a member of the OECD, the United States is legally obligated to bring its regulations into compliance with the OECD Decisions. In prior actions the EPA adopted certain rule changes to title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 262 Subpart H consistent with these Decisions. This final rule consolidates the regulations by making all transboundary hazardous waste shipments with Canada, Mexico and non-OECD countries comply with requirements consistent with OECD procedures.

EPA’s determination that some revisions to the import/export regulations are needed at this time was bolstered by the 2013 Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) report (84 pp, 4.23 MB, About PDF)Exit as well as the 2015 EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report. Based on CEC recommendations, EPA has finalized the following requirements:

  • the use of international movement documents for each international shipment of hazardous waste, including hazardous waste managed under 40 CFR Part 266 (e.g., spent lead acid batteries) and universal wastes managed under 40 CFR Part 273,
  • electronic export annual reporting, and
  • linking the consent to export with the electronic export information submitted to CBP to better coordinate EPA’s and CBP’s oversight of individual export shipments of hazardous waste.

This final rule also addresses several of the OIG’s concerns by increasing the tracking of individual import shipments of hazardous waste and requiring EPA’s consent to an import notice submitted by either the foreign exporter or the U.S. importer.

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Additional Resources

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