CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider S. 710, the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. The bill was introduced on March 31, 2011, by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce. The Senate approved S. 710 without amendment by unanimous consent on August 2, 2012.
S. 710 would amend the Solid Waste Disposal Act, otherwise known as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), to direct the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a hazardous waste electronic manifest system (system). The legislation would require the EPA to create, through the use of one or more performance-based and goal-oriented contracts with outside vendors, a system that may be used at the option of any entity required to complete or file a hazardous waste manifest.
S. 710 would also authorize the EPA to establish and collect fees paid by users of the system, and deposit those fees into a fund solely to pay the costs of the system. The bill would also require the EPA to create a Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest System Governing Board to evaluate the manifest system and to periodically report on the financial status of the fund to Congress. In addition, the bill would require the EPA’s Inspector General to perform an annual audit of the system, including an evaluation of the reasonableness of the fees.
The bill would allow the fees to be collected and obligated, in accordance with appropriations acts and only for use on the system. It would also authorize start-up activities to be funded in advance of collection of fees, such that all program costs are offset by fee collection.
According to the Energy and Commerce Committee, beginning in 1980, EPA required the use of a paper manifest system to track federally-regulated hazardous wastes from their point of generation, along their transportation routes, to the place of final treatment, storage, or disposal. The paper manifest is a tool that requires each entity that handles the waste to sign and retain a copy of the manifest as the waste is transported. The paper manifest is currently comprised of six carbon-copies that must be filled out and signed by each person that handles the waste. Copies of the manifest must not only accompany the waste as it is transported but must be mailed to generators and state agencies and kept on-file by each regulated entity. The EPA estimates the paperwork burden on states and private entities from manifests at between $193 million to over $400 million annually.
According to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, Fred Upton, “Companies that handle hazardous waste have long been required to submit manifests – detailed records – of the type, volume, and location of each container from the time it leaves the factory where it was generated to the final storage or disposal site. This bill does not reduce that information requirement - it makes it work better. With electronic filing, we will eliminate millions of paper copies and reduce expenses and labor.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), all expenditures are offset by user fees. For the initial five years, CBO estimates that over the 2013-2017 period, EPA would spend about $15 million to create the electronic manifest system, and estimate that EPA would collect user fees totaling $12 million over that same period. CBO estimates that implementing this legislation would have a net cost of $3 million over the 2013-2017 period.
This estimated net cost in the first five years is because CBO estimates that appropriations will exceed the statutory authorization ceiling by $1 million in each of the first three years. However, CBO also estimates that EPA would collect $6 million in each of 2016, 2017, and 2018 to recover its operating costs in those years and the initial amounts spent to develop the system over the 2012-2015 period. CBO expects that EPA would reduce fees once the system development costs were recouped.