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How to Obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit

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Steps in the Hazardous Waste Permitting Process on the Federal Level

Step 1 – Business Holds a Pre-application Meeting with the Public

  • Business announces the pre-application meeting by putting up a sign on or near the proposed facility property, running an advertisement on radio or television and/or placing a display advertisement in a newspaper. Though not required to do so, the business may also use the internet at their discretion.
  • During the public meeting, the business explains its plans for operation of the facility, including information about the proposed processes used and wastes it will handle.
  • Business gives the public the opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions.
  • Business may choose to incorporate the public's suggestions into its hazardous waste permit application. The permitting agency uses the attendance list from the meeting to help set up a mailing list for the facility.

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Step 2 – Business Applies for a Hazardous Waste Permit

After considering input from the pre-application meeting, business may decide to submit a permit application. The permit application is divided into two parts, Part A and Part B. The Part A application is submitted on a designated form, EPA form 8700-23, and requires basic information about the facility.

The Part B application is submitted in narrative form and is often lengthy. In summary, the permit application must include a description of the facility and address the following:

  • How the facility will be designed, constructed, maintained and operated to be protective of public health and the environment.
  • How potential emergencies and spills will be handled.
  • How the facility will clean up and finance any potential environmental contamination.
  • How the facility will close and clean up once it is no longer operating.

Part B specific information requirements are detailed in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in Part 270. State regulations may be more stringent than the federal requirements. Be sure to check your state's permit requirements to find out if they differ from those on federal level.

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Step 3 – Permitting Agency Receives and Reviews a Hazardous Waste Permit Application

When the permitting agency receives a permit application, it sends a notice to everyone on the mailing list. The notice indicates that the agency has received the application and will make it available for public review. The permitting agency must then place a copy of the application in a public area for review.

Simultaneously, the permitting agency begins to review the application to make sure it contains all the information required by the regulations. The proposed design and operation of the facility are also evaluated by the permitting agency to determine if the facility can be built and operated safely.

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Step 4 – Permitting Agency Issues Notice of Deficiency (NOD) to Applicant to Revise the Hazardous Waste Permit Application

After reviewing the application, the permitting agency may issue a NOD to the applicant. NODs identify and request that the applicant provide any missing information. During the application review and revision process, the permitting agency may issue several NODs. Each time the permitting agency receives a response from the applicant, it reviews the information and, if necessary, issues another NOD until the application is complete. Given the complex and technical nature of the information, the review and revision process may take several years.

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Step 5 – Permitting Agency Drafts the Hazardous Waste Permit for Public Review

When the revisions are complete, the agency makes a preliminary decision about whether to issue or deny the permit. If the agency decides that the application is complete and meets appropriate standards, the agency issues a draft permit containing the conditions under which the facility can operate, should the permit receive final approval. If the permitting agency determines that an applicant cannot provide an application that meets the standards, the agency tentatively denies the permit and prepares a "notice of intent to deny."

The permitting agency announces its decision by sending a letter to everyone on the mailing list, placing a notice in a local paper and broadcasting it over the radio. Though not required to do so, the permitting agency may use the internet to communicate its decision. It also issues a fact sheet to explain the decision. Once the notice is issued, the public has 45 days to comment on the decision. Citizens can also request a public hearing by contacting the permitting agency. The permitting agency can also hold a hearing at its own discretion. The agency must give 30-day public notice before the hearing.

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Step 6 – Permitting Agency Makes Final Decision to Grant or Deny the Hazardous Waste Permit

After carefully considering public comments, the permitting agency reconsiders the draft permit or the notice of intent to deny the permit. The agency must issue a "response to public comments," specifying any changes made to the draft permit. The agency can then issue the final permit or deny the permit.

Even after issuing a permit, the permitting agency continues to monitor the construction and operation of the facility to make sure they are consistent with state and federal rules and with the application.

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Activities after the Final Permit Decision is Made

As the majority of facilities on the permitting track now have permits in place, much of the permitting work has now shifted to permit renewals and permit maintenance. 

Changes to permit conditions are required to keep pace with evolving business practices, technology, cleanup decisions, and regulations. For example, permit modifications allow facilities to update technological systems, comply with new environmental standards, respond to changing waste streams, or simply improve their hazardous waste management practices. These changes in turn can support enhanced operational efficiency, economic development, resource conservation, improved prevention of releases, and cleanup.

Several additional steps can also take place after the original permit is issued:

  • Permit Modifications
    If a facility changes its hazardous waste management procedures, mechanical operations or the wastes it handles, then it must secure a permit modification. For modifications that substantially change facility operations, the public must receive early notice and have a chance to participate and comment. For less significant modifications, the facility must notify the public within 90 days of making the change.

    EPA published the Permit Modifications Report: Safeguarding the Environment in the Face of Changing Business Needs to describe the changing nature of RCRA hazardous waste permitting work and demonstrate how adequate and effective state permitting programs are vital, not only for initial permits, but also throughout the permit term to enable necessary permit maintenance activities.
  • Permit Renewals
    Permits that are due to expire can be renewed. Permit holders that are seeking a permit renewal must follow the same procedures as a facility seeking a new permit. Permits about to expire are administratively continued beyond the expiration date if the applicant submits a timely permit renewal application.
  • Permit Appeals
    Facility owners and the public both have a right to appear the final permit decision.  The appeal is usually decided upon by administrative law judges. 
  • Permit Terminations
    If a facility violates the terms of its permit, the permitting agency can terminate the permit.

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EPA Involvement for National Consistency and Improved Implementation

EPA provides technical assistance to the states to ensure the proper interpretation and implementation of the technical standards through the facility permit. This assistance often takes the form of national guidance to ensure consistency across the country. Despite allowable differences in hazardous waste regulations across states (as discussed on the State Authorization web page), a certain level of national consistency is helpful to the regulated community as well as to the states and the neighboring communities. For example, national consistency allows industry to establish a more uniform business plan rather than having to develop multiple ones tailored to a variety of regulatory frameworks. It also provides a level playing field that guards against unfair competitive advantages.

EPA’s national coordination with state permit writers through regular communication builds expertise and promotes consistency in implementing the hazardous waste permitting program nationwide (for example, monthly permit writer and permit-related enforcement calls for State and EPA participants).

EPA also provides tools to the general public, permit writers, states and tribes to enhance capacity and make permitting more efficient and consistent. For example, a recently updated toolkit gathers all publicly- available permitting resources so that interested parties can easily access them. These resources include permit appeals, proposed and final Federal Register Notices for title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) parts 264, 265, 266, 268, 270 and 124, flow charts of the permitting process, training modules, example permits, and links to the actual regulations.

EPA also tracks facilities’ permitting status to ensure national progress is being made to permit or cleanup interim status facilities to help prevent releases. In addition, EPA tracks whether permit conditions are being kept up to date at permitted facilities. This progress towards the permitting goal is reported pursuant to requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act.

See Frequent Questions About Hazardous Waste Permitting.

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