On January 3, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the User Fees for the Electronic Hazardous Waste Manifest System and Amendments to Manifest Regulations Final Rule (“User Fee Rule” or “Rule”) in the Federal Register (83 Federal Register 420).  While the User Fee Rule does not set e-Manifest user fees, it gives EPA authority to establish user fees and establishes the methodology for EPA to do so.  The Rule becomes effective June 30, 2018.

Although manifest fees have not yet been finalized (they are currently only estimates), it is already clear the Final Rule will have a profound effect on hazardous waste generators.  Notably, large quantity generators with multiple locations are likely to be most significantly impacted as they could incur large costs for submitting the manifests.

At the time of publication, EPA did not have a final budget for the program in Fiscal Year 2018, and it did not yet have the contracts in place for setting up and hosting the system; therefore, the fee estimates provided in the User Fee Rule are “rough approximations of the final fees.”  Ninety days prior to the effective date, EPA plans to publish a final two-year schedule of fees on its website.  Once established, EPA will have the opportunity to revise fee schedules to keep pace with changes in program costs, inflation, and improvements in manifest use data every two years.

The fee estimates incorporate estimates of the costs of establishing and hosting the e-Manifest system, as well as the costs of continued operation of the paper processing center.  The fee estimates are per-manifest fees for each submission type.  For example, paper manifest submissions range from $7.00-$20.00 per submission, while electronic manifest submissions (and hybrid submissions, discussed below) are estimated to be $4.00 per manifest.  The receiving facility designated on the manifest to receive shipments of waste is the user required to pay the fee.  A receiving facility will also pay fees for manifests that involve rejected waste being returned by the facility to the generator.

As is likely evident from the significant price difference in paper and electronic manifests, one of the Rule’s main goals is to provide incentives for facilities to transition from paper to electronic manifests.  In addition to the higher cost to submit a paper manifest, the Rule also provides a pivot for higher fees for paper manifests if overall usage of electronic manifests does not reach 75% in four years.  Ultimately, the goal of the User Fee Rule is to eliminate the use of paper manifests entirely by five years after launching the system.  Depending upon the findings at the end of that five-year period, the Agency has stated it may institute a ban on paper manifests altogether.

In addition to the fee-related issues in the Rule, the User Fee Rule touches on several other aspects relevant to using the system.  For example, interested parties named on the manifest (such as hazardous waste generators, transporters, and receiving facilities) may make corrections electronically to previously-submitted manifest data.  Manifest users may also use a manifest that combines the use of a paper manifest with the use of an electronic manifest in certain circumstances.  This type of submission is now called a “hybrid manifest” and is estimated to cost the same as an electronic manifest ($4.00 per submission). The Rule does not impose any type of fee for accessing the data generated in the e-Manifest system.

States with authorized hazardous waste programs will be required to revise their state programs to be equivalent to, consistent with, and no less stringent than the requirements in the Rule.  In addition to the Rule, EPA has developed guidance to for authorized states on the requirements for the User Fee Rule.  This guidance will be available at a later date.

For additional questions about the e-Manifest Act or the User Fee Rule, please reach out to any of the authors of this post.