RESULTS IN BRIEF
Several state agencies share the responsibility for hazardous waste management in California. However, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (department) is the lead agency for protecting the public and the environment from harmful exposure to hazardous substances. To carry out its mission, the department regulates hazardous waste management activities, oversees cleanup at contaminated sites, encourages pollution prevention, and provides regulatory assistance and public education. Our review of hazardous waste management focused on the generator fee structure and the Unified Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Materials Management Regulatory Program (Unified Program), which consolidates and coordinates six programs for regulating hazardous waste and hazardous materials.
Our review disclosed that the generator fees, which are set in statute, are not equitable and place little pressure on generators of hazardous waste (generators) to reduce the amount of waste they produce. Furthermore, some of these businesses pay a disproportionate share of the fees used to support regulation of hazardous waste when compared to their share of the waste generated in the State. Moreover, laws intended to encourage recycling have limited impact on a business's decision to either recycle or dispose of the waste it produces. Finally, the department has exerted minimal effort to encourage recycling in the State and to penalize businesses that do not recycle waste that should be recycled.
On the other hand, the recently implemented Unified Program appears to be meeting some goals while not duplicating services the State provides in managing the hazardous waste program. Specifically, the Certified Unified Program Agencies (CUPAs) do provide some coordination and consolidation of efforts. However, not all CUPAs furnish all six required program elements, and 15 of the 58 counties in the State have not attained CUPA certification. Furthermore, state agencies responsible for overseeing certain regulatory programs are not assuring that all program elements are implemented in counties that do not have CUPAs. As a result, the State cannot assure the public that businesses that generate, treat, or store hazardous materials and hazardous waste comply with regulatory requirements in locales without CUPAs.
The Legislature should consider modifying the generator fee structure to ensure that the fees generators pay to support the hazardous waste program are fair and reasonable to all levels of hazardous waste generators.
The Legislature should consider modifying the Health and Safety Code to allow the Secretary for the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) to impose penalties on those CUPAs that do not collect or remit the state service charge.
To ensure that all counties implement the Unified Program, the CalEPA should continue to work with the counties that do not yet have CUPAs to assist each in attaining CUPA certification. Additionally, the CalEPA should ensure that it completes the triennial evaluations of CUPAs and promptly issues the final reports.
To meet its statutory responsibilities to encourage recycling, the department should take the following steps:
To maximize the amount of funds available for oversight of the Unified Program, the CalEPA and the department should make certain that CUPAs collect and promptly remit to the department the total state service charge amounts due each fiscal quarter.
To confirm that regulated businesses in counties not currently participating in the Unified Program comply with hazardous materials and waste regulation, the department should conduct routine inspections of hazardous waste generators and on-site treatment facilities in each county without a CUPA. In addition, the Office of Emergency Services and the State Water Resources Control Board should monitor their respective local programs in the counties without CUPAs to ensure that the programs are consistently implemented and enforcement standards are consistently applied.
To ensure oversight of fire code provisions relating to hazardous materials and hazardous waste, the State Fire Marshal should fulfill its responsibilities in the Unified Program as required by statute.
The department generally agrees with conclusions and recommendations reached in the report. Specifically, the department agrees with our recommendation that the list of recyclable hazardous waste should be reviewed periodically and revised when necessary, however, the department believes it is neither necessary nor practical to update the list annually. In addition, the department expresses concern that our conclusion on its efforts to educate the business community about recycling opportunities and other technologies creates an impression far worse than the facts. Further, the CalEPA and the department state that although they have been working with counties that do not have CUPAs it has not been practical or feasible for these counties to attain certification. The CalEPA and the department also believe that they do not have authority to achieve a Unified Program in all areas of the State. Finally, the CalEPA and the department acknowledge problems with collection of the service charge from CUPAs and recognize that hazardous waste generators and on-site treatment facilities in counties without a CUPA need to be inspected.
The Water Board disagrees with our finding and the recommendation related to its oversight of the Underground Storage Tanks program citing a lack of authority. However, the Water Board also states that through authority granted to the CalEPA under the Unified Program, the Water Board has increased its capability to ensure the Underground Storage Tanks program is consistently implemented and enforced in both CUPAs and counties without CUPAs.
The OES states that it has assigned emergency services coordinators whose responsibilities include coordination of hazardous material programs with local government in every county in the State. Further, the OES states that it is in the process of surveying all CUPAs and counties without CUPAs to determine the level of implementation and compliance with the California Accidental Release Prevention program. In addition, the OES stated that it currently participates in formal evaluations of CUPAs and plans to participate in evaluations of programs in counties that do not have CUPAs. These evaluations will begin in September 1999.