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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

Update from the College and University Sector -- FAQ

October 6, 2004

Update from the Colleges and Universities Sector Coordinating Committee on the U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste Laboratory Initiative and Proposed Rulemaking

In response to the 2003 U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste (OSW) Laboratory Initiative, the Colleges and Universities (C&U) Sector Coordinating Committee (CC) is proposing specific regulatory language changes to the OSW. 

Proposed Regulatory Language -- Draft

The purpose of the proposed regulatory language is to address the difficulties colleges and universities continue to experience in applying the industrial-oriented RCRA regulations, promulgated in 1976, to the management of hazardous wastes generated on their campuses. The industrial orientation of RCRA regulations makes compliance by colleges and universities difficult to achieve, imposes undue burden in the areas of interpretation and application, and is a disincentive to RCRA’s objective to promote environmental stewardship. Specifically, RCRA regulations do not recognize that colleges and universities differ from industrial operations in their use and handling of hazardous chemicals. Colleges and universities use small quantities of a large number of chemicals on a non-production basis in spaces designed to safely work with these materials. The chemical industry deals with large quantities of typically few waste streams.

Enforcement of the industrial-oriented RCRA regulations among colleges and universities results in myriad violations for the higher education community. Most often, these violations stem from the provisions of RCRA that are inappropriate for the college and university setting, and not resulting from violations that could cause harm to human health or the environment.

Below are some frequently asked questions about the CC’s proposed regulatory language.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the Coordinating Committee (CC)?

The CC is made up of representatives of six academic organizations: American Council on Education (ACE), Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers (APPA), Campus Consortium for Environmental Excellence (C2E2), Campus Safety Health and Environmental Management Association (CSHEMA), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Sector Strategies Division. The CC also includes the chairpersons of three C&U Sector workgroups: Environmental Management Systems (EMS), Performance Measurements (PM), and Regulatory Innovation (RI).

Representatives from each of the six organizations within the C&U Sector established the CC in June 2003 after the U.S. EPA Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation established C&U in its Sector Strategies Program. The U.S. EPA selected these six academic organizations because they had been most active in past regulatory initiatives. In addition, each organization expressed an interest to the EPA to participate in this program in response to a Federal Register notice announcing the newly reoriented Sector Strategies Program (67 FR 183 September 20, 2002).

The purpose of the CC is to partner with EPA to promote excellence in environmental stewardship at colleges and universities.

Why is the CC pursuing specific regulatory language change, rather than focusing on a performance-based rule change?

The CC’s ultimate goal regarding regulatory innovation is to work with EPA to establish performance-based environmental rules for colleges and universities. The OSW made it clear, however, that any discussions of broad performance-based regulations will need to occur within the context of their 2004 Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) Initiative. Such discussions will take much time and will possibly involve negotiations with industries outside the C&U Sector. Given this constraint, both OSW and the CC felt that an opportunity exists under the Lab Initiative to address some of the C&U Sector’s concerns in the near term and that is why the CC is pursuing this rulemaking effort.

What is the purpose of the proposed regulatory language?

The proposed regulatory language  addresses three areas in the current RCRA regulations that create a burden for colleges and universities: (1) the draft language proposes that C&U be allowed to make hazardous waste determinations in central accumulation, or hazardous waste storage areas, rather than having to do so at the point of generation; (2) The draft language would allow C&U 30 days, rather than three days, to move hazardous waste from academic laboratories (satellite accumulation areas) to institutional accumulation areas or 30 days to ship them off-site, in the case of laboratory cleanouts and end of semester activities; and (3) The draft language clarifies that hazardous waste generated in laboratories can be treated on site in laboratories or accumulation areas, without the need for a treatment, storage, and disposal permit.

Are the major concerns of small colleges being addressed by the rulemaking effort?

Small college representatives participated in drafting CC’s regulatory language. While many small colleges support the proposal, they note that the language does not completely address their main concerns about RCRA, such as episodic generation and multiple EPA ID numbers/contiguous property issues. Small college representatives are particularly troubled by P-list rules, which disproportionately impact college laboratories that are much more likely to have small quantities of esoteric chemicals compared to industry. Industry typically has either large amounts of P-listed chemicals or none at all. The one-kilogram limit, which kicks small quantity laboratory generators into large quantity generator status, is a major burden to small colleges and universities.

The CC has told the OSW that these are major concerns for the sector, but to date, the OSW has said that these concerns are not unique to the C&U sector and must be addressed under their broader RCRA initiative. The CC will continue to make this a high priority for the sector and will pursue it under EPA’s RCRA Initiative.

Are art studios included in the definition of academic laboratory under the proposed regulatory language?


Are C&U facilities’ power plants included in the definition of academic laboratory under the proposed regulation language?


What is OSW doing with regard to the proposed regulatory language?

OSW has put together a work group of upper level managers from EPA’s OSW, Office of Policy, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance, General Counsel’s Office, and EPA Regions 1, 2, 7, and 9, to develop an approach to this rulemaking effort. The OSW said they would contact the CC if they have any questions about the CC’s proposal.

Is the CC drafting regulatory language for the EPA?

No. The draft regulatory language prepared by the CC is merely a proposal from the sector for the OSW to consider in its rulemaking efforts. EPA is responsible for all aspects of drafting federal environmental regulations.

What is OSW’s timeline, if any, for this Laboratory Initiative rulemaking effort?

An OSW representative stated that they hope to draft a proposed rule along with preamble language by spring 2005 and hope to have a notice of proposed rulemaking posted within a year.

What are EPA’s concerns, if any, about the proposed regulatory language?

Along with the technical aspects and resource demands of a rulemaking effort, EPA has questions for the C&U sector about federal and state enforceability in academic laboratories; proposed accumulation times during lab cleanouts (some feel 30 days may be too long); storage of incompatible chemicals (is not addressed in the proposed language and is a primary concern of EPA enforcement inspectors at C&U); and quid pro quo – some EPA representatives feel that the proposed language, while it does address historical inequities, should be accompanied by an increase in regulatory compliance requirements in other areas. Above all, OSW would like this rulemaking effort to resolve C&U Sector issues once and for all.

Does the proposed regulatory language add regulatory burdens to the C&U sector?

In the current version of the proposed regulatory language (8-18-04), the CC does not feel that it adds any regulatory burden to the C&U sector. All items contained in the proposed language are required under the OSHA Laboratory Standard.

What if our college or university does not want to operate under these proposed rules?

There is no requirement to operate under the proposed regulatory language. Colleges and universities can continue to operate under their existing regulatory requirements.

What if our state does not adopt the new regulatory language?

All states have the option of drafting hazardous waste regulations that are stricter than federal requirements, but the EPA Sector’s program will develop educational materials for state enforcement agencies if EPA approves and puts into effect new rules.

What if the Sector disagrees with proposed regulatory language eventually drafted by OSW?

Then the CC and the C&U Sector will strongly protest proposed rulemaking effort and will work with EPA to address Sector concerns.

Is EPA working on any other rules or guidance for colleges and universities?

Yes. In August 2002 EPA issued guidance on on-site treatment and on who may make a hazardous waste determination, which addresses questions at many colleges and universities. In June 2003, EPA held public meetings on hazardous waste management in laboratories. (It is this 2003 EPA “Laboratory Initiative” that the CC is responding to and why the CC is proposing this draft regulatory language.) In April 2004 EPA published guidance on satellite accumulation areas. At the same time, EPA’s Generator Initiative requested comments on the hazardous waste generator regulatory program, including those aspects that affect higher education. New rules and guidance are likely to result from the Generator Initiative and the CC plans to also comment on these proposals. Finally, EPA plans to expand its compliance assistance to colleges and universities in the near future.

Are other industrial sectors included in the proposed regulatory language?

No. At this time, the proposed language applies only to C&U academic laboratories. While other industrial sectors may feel that this draft regulatory language pertains also to their sector, the CC is an advocate only for the C&U sector. 

The C&U Sector has long demonstrated the problems current RCRA regulations present to their members and has made a strong argument that EPA should address these concerns. The C&U Sector provides EPA with the opportunity to test such rule change efforts in a very select area, the results of which EPA could apply to other sectors. In addition, the EPA could also possibly apply this model in the future to performance-based rulemaking efforts.

How do I provide feedback on the draft regulatory language to the CC?

E-mail all comments on the proposed regulatory language to Bill Diesslin, chair of the Regulatory Innovations Workgroup.

How do I get further information about and updates on CC activities?

Visit the CC Web updates at If you have specific questions, please contact Peggy Bagnoli, EPA Sectors Program.