May 3, 2013

Printers to Obama: Please regulate our cleaning rags

From: RegWatch/The Hill

By Megan R. Wilson

The printing and graphic design industry wants the Obama administration to  hurry up and regulate the rags that are used to sop up hazardous chemicals.

The draft of a final rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has  been sitting at the White House for more than a year, and the Printing  Industries of America and the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association had one  question for the White House during a meeting last week: Where’s our rule?

“It may seem crazy, industry asking for more regulation,” said Gary Jones,  the assistant vice president of environmental, health, and safety affairs for  the Printing Industries of America, who attended the meeting.

The rule would create consistency across individual state-level standards  that regulate the rags used by printing companies, auto-body and furniture  refurbishing shops to clean surfaces. The rags pick up cleaning solvents along  the way.

Right now, the protocols aren’t actually legally enforceable, and vary by  state.

The EPA released the proposal to revise the Resource Conservation and  Recovery Act’s (RCRA) hazardous waste regulations in 2003, but Jones said he has  been talking to the agency since the ’90s about streamlining state policies for  the sector and giving them regulatory teeth.

In the EPA’s 2006 regulatory agenda, the agency says the rule would affect  471,000 users of “industrial wipes,” and save the economy $34 million.

“We understand they wanted to get the rule done by the ‘end of summer’ last  year,” Jones said he was told. “They wanted to get it done before the excitement  of the election. … That time has passed.”

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the White House’s  Office of Science and Technology Policy, the EPA and the Small Business  Administration’s Office of Advocacy sat in on the meeting, but according to  protocol, couldn’t answer questions or give any details on the final draft’s  progress.

Marci Kinter attended from the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association,  according to federal records.

The industry says it isn’t aware of any controversy surrounding the rule. Any  objection environmental groups had with the EPA’s environmental impact  assessment was rectified, Jones said, when the agency re-did its analysis in  2009.

Members of the Printing Industries of America, which are often large  commercial printers, use reusable rags that must be dried of all chemicals  before being transported off-site for washing, Jones said.

He said the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association members largely use  disposable wipes, because they work most often with digital screens. While those  are wet with solvent, they are considered hazardous waste. After they dry, they  just become waste and can be incinerated or thrown away.

The national regulations deal with how exactly to drain both types of rags of  cleaning chemicals, and what to do with the disposable ones after that.

OIRA, the White House’s regulations gateway, received the rules on April 23,  2012. Laws stipulate that the agency then has 90 days to review the drafts  before returning them to agencies for correction or publication; however, 79 of  the 153 pending rules and proposals have gone past that 90-day deadline.

“I think there are a lot of people frustrated with the process,” Jones said. “Our goal [for the meeting] was we wanted to see them get the rule out the door.  I don’t know if this did anything, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”

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