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EPA Reveals Rule-Specific Auto Shop Laws 

Regulatory officials have found numerous violations and compliance issues at service and repair shops for failure to control organic air emissions from waste management activities

Steven E. Schillinger is a P.E. and PBE consultant in addition to being “actively retired.” He can be reached at and

Regulatory officials of late have found numerous violations and compliance issues at automotive service and repair shops for failure to control organic air emissions from waste management activities. Releases into the air from surface coatings, process vents, equipment, tanks, containers and product recycling operations can result in on-site worker exposure and, at times, nearby community exposure, to volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. Emissions of hazardous waste VOCs can also increase the potential for fire and explosions on-site which may present risks to first responders. 

Steven E. Schillinger

Hazardous waste laws and subsequent regulations, known as the “Resource Conservation and Recovery Act,” or RCRA, are among the most strictly enforced environmental regulations in the country. Many vehicle service, repair and paint shops generate hazardous waste (HazWaste). Shop operators are required to identify, classify and quantify their hazardous wastes. Classifying paint product usage and emissions help shop owners and managers understand what regulatory standards apply to their facility procedures. 

The Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) was signed into law in 1965. This act reconciled the notion of sanitary management of waste with the incidence, distribution, and control of disease. RCRA was intended as an amendment by Congress to be the structure of all environmental regulations. RCRA’s original objective was to conserve energy and natural resources by reducing the amount of waste generated and ensuring that HazWaste managed in an environmentally sound manner. As amended, RCRA was designed to fully regulate hazardous waste management from the “cradle to the grave,” as opposed to at the “end of the pipe.”

This reorientation shifted accountability for hazardous waste from the waste destination storage and disposal facilities upstream to the waste generator, including shipping, transport, and disposal. The statute gave rise to stringent regulations addressing waste identification, collection, accumulation and storage, transport, and treatment disposal, all tracked through the use of a uniform manifesting procedure. 

As an addition to the HazWaste laws in 2008, the EPA initiated National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for auto shops engaged in paint stripping, surface coating of motor vehicles and mobile equipment, and miscellaneous surface coating operations as subpart HHHHHH; also referred to as “6H.” These sources were primarily small refinishing shops located across the United States. 

Beginning May 9, the government will have created changes to HAPs 6H compliance laws: 

1. A simplified alternative to the exemption process for shops that do not spray apply coatings containing “target HAPs” emission compounds of chromium, lead, manganese, nickel, or cadmium. 

2. Hazardous emission standards will still apply at all times, including during periods of startup, shutdown and malfunction. The NESHAP exemption issue was previously resolved by a change to the General Provisions. Therefore, rule-specific revisions are not necessary. 

3. Requirement(s) for electronic reporting remain in effect; and 

4. Other minor technical updates and clarifications have been prescribed. See EPA Factsheet

Accordingly, an identified RCRA hazardous-waste-generating shop must certify that they have a program in place to reduce the volume and toxicity of the waste generated. That means every signature of every hazardous waste manifest memorializes an organization’s commitment to regulatory compliance, as well as its covenant to the local community, and should strengthen the organization’s resolve to help protect the environment through strong waste reduction policies and practices. 

As a matter of law, many Paint Stripping and Miscellaneous Surface Coating shops must certify that they have a waste reduction program in place. Along with this law is a little-known waste minimization certification tucked away within Item 15 of the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest regulation as follows: 

1. The generator must read, sign, and date the waste minimization certification statement. In signing the waste minimization certification statement, those generators who have not been exempted by statute or regulation from the duty to make a waste minimization certification under section 3002(b) of RCRA are also certifying that they have complied with the waste minimization requirements. The Generator’s Certification also contains the required attestation that the shipment has been properly prepared and is in proper condition for transportation (the shipper’s certification). The content of the shipper’s certification statement is as follows: “I hereby declare that the contents of this consignment are fully and accurately described above by the proper shipping name, and are classified, packaged, marked, and labeled/placarded, and are in all respects in proper condition for transport according to applicable international and national governmental regulations. If export shipment and I am the Primary Exporter, I certify that the contents of this consignment conform to the terms of the attached EPA Acknowledgment of Consent.” When a party other than the generator prepares the shipment for transportation, this party may also sign the shipper’s certification statement as the offeror of the shipment. 

2. Generator or Offeror personnel may preprint the words, “On behalf of” in the signature block or may hand write this statement in the signature block prior to signing the generator/offeror certification, to indicate that the individual signs as the employee or agent of the named principal. 

These ensuing environmental and safety regulations have advanced the current Congressional agenda and intent by providing prescriptive, legally enforceable requirements for waste management. 

Prior to COVID, the discovery of hazardous waste in drinking water around the country raised concerns about potentially adverse environmental consequences and detrimental effects on human health. It is imperative that all chemicals are reported by shops subject RCRA concerning toxic materials, handling, and disposal programs in accordance with local, state and federal laws. 

Automotive service, repair and paint shops are encouraged to contact their state SBEAPs or find regulatory contacts through the Gateway State Hazardous Waste Locator. Most regulatory contacts offer confidential assistance and the regulating agency is typically the enforcement arm of the state. 

The true reason for assessment, review, and revision of air toxics standards is to improve public health, as highlighted in the mission statement of the American Medical Association. Pursuant to that goal, this article communicates how the management of air pollution and hazardous waste can be aligned with environmental sustainability, safety, resource stewardship, and regulatory compliance. 

For more information 

Interested parties can download more information from the National Small Business Environmental Assistance Program (SBEAP) here. The May 9, 2022, action and other background information are also available electronically here, EPA’s electronic public docket and comment system. 

For further technical information about the rule, contact Lisa Sutton, EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, at (919) 541-3450 or 

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