Nearly 30 years after it was originally brought to the table, it seems that the Environmental Protection Agency’s long awaited solvent-contaminated industrial wiper rule (a.k.a. “wiper rule”) is on its way to being completed once and for all. On June 25, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced it had finished its review of the rule, completing the last substantive step in the regulatory process before the rule can be published in its final form.
The EPA had wrapped up work on its draft final rule and sent it to OMB for review in April 2012, leading stakeholders to believe it would be finalized by the end of last summer. Unfortunately, the rule stalled at OMB due to a backlog of similar pending regulatory reviews, leading EPA to predict in a recent semi-annual agenda that it would not be completed until October 2013. It is unclear what prompted OMB to conclude its work ahead of schedule, but recent media and Capitol Hill criticism of the delays in regulatory review process, as well as dogged appeals from groups like INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, likely served as a catalyst to move things forward.
Although concrete details will not be available until the rule is signed and released, it is expected the final rule will establish conditions under which single-use wipes used in industrial settings will be exempt from onerous hazardous waste regulations, and users exempt from the related onerous handling and disposal requirements. Meanwhile, laundered shop towels, which are currently only subject to a hodgepodge of much looser and often conflicting state regulations, will be brought into the federal regime, and provided conditions under which they may be exempt from the definition of solid waste. While the specific timeline is still unclear, if all goes as expected, INDA is hopeful that a final industrial wiper rule will be published by the end of the summer. Once it is, INDA will review the regulatory language and provide its members a summary of the key details.