EPA Won’t Seek Input on Oily Wastewater


EPA Won’t Seek Input on Oily Wastewater

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has dropped a plan to invite public comments about rules regarding the collection and treatment of oily wastewater – a decision praised by an industry organization for not interfering with their ability to recycle used lubricants.

NORA, a trade group of companies involved in oil recycling, said the agency informed it of the decision Monday, after NORA met agency officials recently to advise about the problems that would result if oily wastewater were classified as a hazardous material.

The trade association, formally named NORA, An Association of Responsible Recyclers, called it a victory that agency decided to maintain a status quo that has been in place for thirty years – including regulating oily wastewater under Part 279, where it is not classified as hazardous.

“Part 279 is the regulatory foundation for used oil recyclers and oily wastewater processors,” NORA Executive Director Scott Parker said in a press release. “It has effectively established the framework that members have utilized for decades. We appreciate EPA thoughtfully considering the information provided by NORA in coming to this decision. NORA remains committed to defending the rights of members to responsibly collect and recycle billions of gallons of used oil, oily wastewater and related materials each year.”

It was last year when EPA began talking about inviting comments on rules regarding used oil as part of a broader project to consider new permitting rules under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, which is separate from 40 CFR and Part 279. “Permitting Updates Proposed Rulemaking” project.

Agency officials said they planned no changes at this time but wanted to use the public comment period to gather input for potential future changes. NORA noted regulators in at least one state have contended that Part 279 creates a loophole for mildly oily wastewater that warrants being treated as a hazardous waste. According to NORA, EPA officials hosting an October 2022 webinar said they would like input about how to address wastewater with minute fractions of used oil, how to manage wastewater after it is separated from oil and how to manage emulsions.

Oily wastewater comes from a variety of sources, from restaurants to auto repair shops to manufacturing facilities. Classifying oily wastewater as hazardous would likely create new requirements for handling, transporting and processing the material.

NORA organized a Part 279 Coalition and a lobbying effort that included several other trade groups: Automotive Oil Change Association. American Petroleum Institute, Energy Marketers of America, Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association, National Association of Manufacturers, National Automobile Dealers Association, Service Station Dealers of America and Tire Industry Association.

With assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, NORA officials met with representatives from EPA in Washington, D.C. in September to discuss potential changes to Part 279, which defines terms such as used oil and oily wastewater, sets used oil specifications, and set standards for used oil generation, collection, transportation and processing, including rerefining. It also sets standards for marketing used oil as fuel and disposal of used oil.

According to NORA, the EPA has not added language to Part 279 – outside of corrections – in more than 30 years. The agency published the first portion of the Standards for the Management of Used Oil on Nov. 29, 1985, and published the second portion on Sept. 10, 1992.

In it press release, NORA said an EPA representative communicated to the association on Nov. 27, “We value the input you provided regarding used oil/wastewater management practices and potential impacts to those practices from changes to the used oil regulations and have considered your input in relation to other information we have gathered about used oil and wastewaters. We wanted to loop back with you to let you know that, at this point, we no longer plan to discuss used oil in the upcoming Permitting Updates Proposed Rulemaking.”