Hazardous Waste Combustion in Cement Kilns
III. Expanding Public Participation in RCRA Proceedings
Currently, public involvement in the RCRA permitting process is limited to a 45 day comment period on proposed permits. The regulations also require that a mailing list be prepared when RCRA permit applications are received. Interested citizens can receive notice of hearings and decisions.
In the case of cement and aggregate kilns, however, there has been, as a practical matter, no public participation. This is because the BIF rule provides that hazardous waste burning facilities which were "in existence" before the effective date of the rule (August 27, 1991) could apply for "interim status." Interim status facilities can burn hazardous waste without a permit so long as they file a RCRA Subpart B permit application and certify compliance with applicable BIF performance standards. The EPA has interpreted the "in existence" definition to include not only facilities which burned hazardous waste before the effective date of the BIF rule but facilities which had simply obtained all necessary Federal, State, or local permits or approvals specifically regulating hazardous waste. As a result of this rather expansive interpretation, all cement kilns currently burning hazardous waste have been treated as interim status facilities.
The EPA's decision to include existing facilities in the interim status category, where they could operate without a RCRA permit indefinitely, effectively eliminated public participation in the decision to burn hazardous waste in these facilities. The EPA's decision to expedite commercial interim status facility permit applications affords the public its first opportunity to participate in the approval of waste-burning activities at these facilities.
A key goal of the EPA's 1993 combustion strategy is to increase public participation in the RCRA permitting process. The EPA has issued a proposed rule increasing public participation which EPA regional administrators have been strongly urged to implement immediately, on a discretionary, case-by-case basis, pending final adoption of the rule. The proposed rule requires EPA to: 1) issue public notice upon receipt of a permit application; 2) conduct permit proceedings in a manner to assure communication with non-English speaking populations, if necessary; and 3) issue advance public notice and timetable for trial burn operations. The proposed rule imposes requirements on permit applicants as well, including: 1) holding pre-application meetings with the public; 2) maintaining public information repositories as required on a case-by-case basis; and 3) for interim status facilities, submitting proposed trial burn plans with permit applications.