California bill seeks to address ASR

Bill seeks to halt the exemption of auto shredder residue from hazardous waste laws.

June 5, 2014
Recycling Today Staff
Auto Shredding Legislation & Regulations

California Senate bill SB 1249, which seeks to change the classification of auto shredder residue (ASR) to a potentially hazardous waste material and address the safe handling of auto shredder residue, has passed the California State Senate by a vote of 23 to 12 and is slated to be considered by the California Assembly.

The bill, authored by State Sen. Jerry Hill, was introduced Feb. 14, 2014, and would require the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to conduct a full analysis of metal shredding facilities throughout the state and to implement “appropriate regulatory classifications and oversight,” according to a news advisory issued by Hill’s office.

If passed, the bill would authorize the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), in consultation with the state’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery and the California Water Resources Control Board, “to adopt regulations establishing alternative management standards for a metal shredding facility, including activities conducted within the boundaries of a metal shredding facility, and for the generation, storage, transportation and disposal of metal shredder residue and treated metal shredder residue, as defined, that would apply in lieu of the hazardous waste management standards if the department performs specified actions,” according to a May 8, 2014, legislative update.

Additionally, the bill also would require the DTSC to prepare a preliminary analysis and a final analysis evaluating the hazardous waste management activities to which these management standards would apply.

The bill would prohibit the DTSC from adopting management standards that are less stringent than applicable standards under federal law and would require metal shredder residue and treated metal shredder residue to be disposed of in a specified manner.

SB 1249 would require the DTSC to complete the analysis of the hazardous waste management activities of metal shredders and the subsequent regulatory action before Jan. 1, 2017, and would make all hazardous waste determinations and policies, procedures or guidance issued by the department before Jan. 1, 2014, relating to metal shredder residue or treated metal shredder residue inoperative once the department has taken regulatory action. Because a violation of these requirements would be a crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

The bill also would authorize the department to collect an annual fee from metal shredding facilities at a rate sufficient to cover the costs to the DTSC to implement these provisions.

Additionally, SB 1249 calls for the DTSC to focus on all aspects of the operation—from when the material arrives at the facility to treatment, transport, disposal and storage—to ensure the shredding process is done in a manner that protects public health and the environment.

According to Hill, shredder facilities in the state are operating under hazardous waste exemptions dating back to the 1980s. The exemptions, the DTSC says, are “outdated and legally incorrect.”

Throughout the last decade, DTSC has concluded that shredder waste has exceeded state regulatory thresholds for lead, zinc and cadmium. “Over the last two decades, there have been multiple incidents across the state that have jeopardized human health and the environment and call into question the regulatory oversight of this industry,” Hill’s news release states.

When Hill first introduced the bill, he noted that nearly 700,000 tons of ASR are disposed of every year.

Hill also points to the impact of multiple fires at shredding facilities that have occurred over the past six years. The fires, he says, have caused “harmful plumes of smoke to billow over the Peninsula, impacting the health of residents.”

Meg Rosegay, a partner with the law firm Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw Pittman, which is representing the West Coast Chapter of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, says that the industry has been working with state regulators for decades on the issue and is seeking to find common ground.

Hill adds that the counties of San Mateo, Alameda and Santa Clara have had to issue health advisories because of the smoke, and school districts were forced to keep students inside in light of poor air quality.

In 2011, U.S. EPA inspectors discovered higher than normal levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), mercury, lead, copper and zinc in Redwood Creek and San Francisco Bay around one of the shredding facilities. Hill says regulators found that PCB levels around a Sims Metal Management facility were 10,000 times what would be normally expected in soil while lead and copper were 10 to 15 times greater than acceptable.

Far from being in opposition to the bill altogether, Rosegay says the shredder industry supports two provisions of the bill: one that gives the department the statutory ability to declassify the ASR as a non-hazardous material, depending on the results of ISRI-sponsored tests; and a provision that allows shredders to adopt alternative management standards while the material is being handled.

What shredder operators in the state are concerned about is one provision in the bill that would stipulate all activities in the shredder facility would be subject to oversight by the Bureau of Toxics, what Rosegay calls the “fence line to fence line approach.”

Rosegay says shredder operators have been working closely with Senator Hill’s staff on possible amendments. “We are working with the senator’s staff to develop legislation that we can support,” Rosegay says. “ISRI’s position is in a strong opposition unless it is amended.

She expects further progress on the bill by the end of July.