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Who Can Use EPA's New RCRA Relief for Episodic Generation?

Posted on 5/19/2020 by Joel Gregier, CDGP

On November 28, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed the Generator Improvements Rule (GIR).  The GIR is the most significant hazardous waste rulemaking in decades and amended the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which contains the rules for managing and disposing of hazardous waste.

The GIR made many, many changes to the hazardous waste rules: New marking requirements for hazardous waste containers, revised on-site storage standards, bolstered emergency preparedness rules, and more.  

Many of the changes made the hazardous waste regulations more stringent, but not all of them.  One of the GIR’s “nice” additions—that is, a change that made compliance a little easier for facilities—is the creation of rules for “episodic generation.”

Get up to speed on all the new RCRA rules from EPA’s Generator Improvements Rule and other recent revisions. Join us for the next live RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Refresher Webinar on May 27.

What is Episodic Generation?

There are three categories of generators under EPA’s hazardous waste regulations: very small quantity generators (VSQGs)*, small quantity generators (SQGs), and large quantity generators (LQGs).  As you move up in size, you are subject to more requirements.

*Before the Generator Improvements Rule, VSQGs were known as Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators or CESQGs

Generator size is based off how much waste you create in a calendar month.  It is theoretically possible that you could be one size of generator one month and a different size the next month, based on how much waste was generated.  This means that if you generate a large volume of waste one month—due to a lab clean out, a spill, or another event—you may now have more rules to follow because you “moved up” to a higher generator status. 

This is where the new rules for episodic generation can help.

The episodic generation rules provide a once-per-year relief where, if you make more waste than usual, you can retain your normal generator category instead of moving up.  This is allowed for a “planned” event, provided you notify the EPA/your state 30 days prior. It can also be used for an “unplanned” event, provided you notify within 72 hours of the event taking place.

For instance, let’s say your site is normally a small quantity generator, but a tank of expired product out back needs to be disposed of.  There’s enough waste in that tank that when you dispose of it, you would get pushed into the large quantity generator category.  Because this is a one-time occurrence for the year, you can remain a small quantity generator as long as you treat this particular month as an episodic event.

Of course, that does not mean that the waste you generate from the episodic event is not regulated. The specific rules you must follow for episodic events are found at 40 CFR 262, Subpart L. 

Can I Use the Episodic Rules?

You may be thinking, “This sounds great!  I’m going to implement this right away!” However, as with all things hazardous waste-related, you need to check with your state first.  Unless your state has adopted the episodic rules, you will not be able to take advantage of the relief—at least not yet.

Two states automatically adopted these rules when GIR came out: Alaska and Iowa.  These two states do not have their own state programs and are administered by the EPA.  Thus, Alaska and Iowa got immediate access to the new relief. These two states were immediately subject to the new, more stringent requirements, too.
The other 48 states must formally adopt the Generator Improvements Rule through their own state’s program. 

Here is an important thing to note: Your state is not required to adopt the new relief for episodic events.

Because the rules for episodic generation are less stringent than previous regulations, states are not required to adopt them.  States are required to adopt more stringent regulations only.

Has My State Adopted the Episodic Relief?

Unfortunately, while you can easily see which states have adopted the Generator Improvements Rule so far, there is not one publicly available page or inventory that lists which states have adopted the episodic generation relief specifically. 

To find out if your state has adopted it, you will need to do a little detective work. 

Here are three actions you can take to find out: 

1. Reach out to your state directly. Just call up your state authority and ask them!  They are not that scary.

2. Check public resources to see if your state has adopted the Generator Improvements Rule

If your state has not yet adopted GIR, then we can plainly tell you that your state has not adopted the episodic rules yet (but they might in the future). If your state has adopted GIR, then we can tell you that your state might have adopted the episodic rules. 

EPA’s GIR adoption webpage provides direct links to your state regulations and you can look through those to see if your state adopted “40 CFR 262, Subpart L.”  If they did, then they adopted the episodic rules.
3. Lion Members: Login to the Lion.com Member Area.  When you access the “Member Area” go to our “Resources” tab.  Under “State Tools,” we have created nice state summaries that summarize your state’s extra requirement beyond the Federal RCRA requirements.  

Each state summary should tell you whether your state has adopted the episodic rules. We update these resources on a rolling basis throughout the year. 

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Tags: generator improvements, hazardous waste, hazardous waste management, new rules, RCRA

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