You may not realize it, but California is a pioneer. This state has created hazardous waste laws that paved the way for other parts of the country. In 1972, it enacted the California Hazardous Waste Control Law (HWCL). This legislation occurred 4 years prior to the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
Because California designed its law well before any federal initiatives were put in place, there are significant differences between Federal and California state law to this day. Some key characteristics that set the two apart include:
- HWCL requires all hazardous waste treatment to be permitted by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). In contrast, RCRA was initially lenient concerning treatment by generators.
- California produced a list of hazardous wastes and a toxicity characteristic more than 10 years before RCRA produced similar specifics.
- RCRA allows a “sewer exclusion” for wastes under the Clean Water Act. However, California does not recognize any exclusion in this matter.
- The hazardous waste toxicity characteristic is clearly defined, including constituents such as copper, zinc and nickel. On the federal side, there are no such regulations.
- In addition, the state’s toxicity characteristic examines other aspects that include carcinogens. There is no counterpart in federal law.
- California has more universal wastes and regulated hazardous wastes than the federal regulations recognize.
What These Differences Mean
Based on the above list, it’s easy to see that California has a unique set of regulations concerning hazardous waste. In fact, this state far exceeds federal laws that are obeyed in other areas of the nation and this can be problematic. Although California’s statutes provides a more detailed protection of the environment, they can also pose many challenges.
Because California has such comprehensive environmental laws that could lead to violations, many national and international corporations located within this state’s borders have experience penalties without realizing their transgressions. RCRA is so much more permissive, even the mildest of offenses are not as harshly enforced by RCRA as they are under California law.
Therefore, adhering to RCRA regulations is not enough when a company has an office in California. For this reason, it’s essential to have a complete understanding of California’s environmental laws in order to avoid the state’s rigid punishments.
One Final Note on Environmental Regulations
Due to the complexity of California’s environmental regulations and its divergence from federal laws, every company doing business related to medical waste in California must be in compliance. If you are affiliated with a medical office or corporation that deals with hazardous waste disposal, be sure to check out upcoming seminars in this area. Then you will better understand these complicated rules and avoid making an infraction in the future.