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Capacity Assurance - A Twenty Year Planning Tool for the Future Management of Hazardous Waste

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), was amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) on October 17, 1986. These amendments include the provisions under Section 104(c)(9) that require states to assure the availability of hazardous waste treatment or disposal facilities that have adequate capacity to manage the hazardous waste expected to be generated within the state over 20 years, before EPA provides any remedial actions.

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The Agency worked closely with the states to develop a planning process that first focuses on an assessment of national capacity. The assessment of national capacity is intended to reflect the reality of waste flows and needs for future management capacity. The national planning approach is described in the Guidance for Capacity Assurance Planning document dated May 1993 and involves EPA assessing capacity nationwide by aggregating state-specific data.

While the most recent National Capacity Assessment Report indicates that there exists adequate national capacity for the treatment and disposal of hazardous waste through the year 2039, there is the potential for unforeseen circumstances (e.g., new federal regulations, permit denials, taxes on management, statutory limitations on landfills, and changing market conditions) that could affect the future availability of management capacity. Nationally, the industry is consolidating and restructuring as indicated by the existence of fewer landfills, incinerators, and energy recovery facilities permitted under RCRA Subtitle C requirements than reported in the 1993 CAP data submissions.

Assuring adequate capacity requires active planning on the part of all parties, including states, tribal governments, industry, and commercial management facilities. This necessitates that all states periodically examine their capacity situations, identify areas of concern, and develop plans that consider future needs. These planning exercises will add to states’ knowledge of their hazardous waste management systems, help them implement waste minimization programs, and encourage companies to replace older treatment units with more efficient technologies. This can be especially important if studies of hazardous waste management data show capacity issues for specific waste streams anticipated to be generated within a state’s borders.

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National Capacity Assessment Reports and Supporting Documents

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