The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), held a hearing today on "Electronic Submission of Hazardous Waste Manifests -- Modernizing for the 21st Century." Currently, those possessing hazardous waste must keep a multi-page, paper manifest to track the materials from "cradle-to-grave" that is eventually submitted to state authorities and the EPA for filing. Members and witnesses discussed the benefits of streamlining this burdensome reporting requirement using 21st century technology to help reduce costs and increase public safety. Electronic reporting would be instantaneous and immediately available to authorities, a much more efficient process than the current paper reporting requirements.
"EPA's fiscal year 2013 budget states a fully-implemented "electronic manifest system is estimated to reduce the reporting burden for firms regulated under RCRA's hazardous waste provisions by $76 to $124 million annually,'" said Chairman Shimkus. "Especially at a time of unacceptably high unemployment, an enormous Federal debt, and limited state budgetary resources, Congress should be looking for ways to lighten the fiscal burden generated by the paper manifest system, but do so in a way that makes sense for tracking, enforcement, and public health concerns."
Suzanne Rudzinski, Director of EPA's Solid Waste and Emergency Response Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, explained the arduous process that defines the current system for handling hazardous waste. Under present guidelines, the original manifest document is drafted by the originator of the waste, is signed and passed along to successive possessors of the hazardous waste, and eventually sent back to the originator for their records and formal submission. Rudzinski explained, "All of the manual processing steps described above add up to a very significant paperwork burden. We estimate that each year, hazardous waste generators prepare about 2 to 5 million manifest forms, and that the completion and processing of all these forms results in an annual paperwork burden that exceeds $200 million."
Lisa Silvia, Senior Waste Inspector for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, endorsed the idea of transitioning to an electronic system. She remarked that an E-Manifest system, "Would ensure national consistency and compliance, save time and costs, make information more accessible, and provide for safer roads and emergency response."
Calling a transition to electronic tracking "long overdue," David Case, Executive Director of the Environmental Technology Council, an association representing the hazardous waste management industry, urged the subcommittee to move expeditiously on legislation to move from the current paper system to a system that takes advantage of modern technology. In describing the many costs the current system imposes on the industry, he said, "An electronic system could reduce this time and expense considerably, for all the parties involved, and result in a system that is more efficient, reliable, accessible and timely."