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In re General Motors Automotive North America

Case Number: 
RCRA No. 05-2004-0001
ELR Citation:36 ELR 47869

An administrative law judge (ALJ) granted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) proposed compliance order and penalty assessment against an automobile manufacturer for violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA claimed that the manufacturer violated RCRA §3005(a), as well as federal and state hazardous waste regulations, in conjunction with painting operations at three of its facilities located in Pontiac, Michigan; Lake Orion, Michigan; and Moraine, Ohio. The ALJ agreed, holding that contaminated purge mixture generated at the facilities is a "waste." The purge mixture is a spent material that is being sent for reclamation and, therefore, meets the regulatory definition of "waste." Regardless of the manufacturer's saving contaminated purge solvent (in the purge mixture) for reclamation (and reconstitution into purge solvent), a plethora of cases hold that saving used material for reclamation does not exempt it from being classified by EPA as "discarded"; rather, such materials are within EPA's broad authority to regulate waste. Moreover, none of the exemptions from the definition of "solid waste" apply in this case. Consequently, the manufacturer violated state and federal hazardous waste regulations that apply to generators that store hazardous waste in tanks. The ALJ also agreed with EPA that a multiday penalty was appropriate in order to deter future noncompliance. The ALJ, therefore, assessed the manufacturer a civil administrative penalty in the amount of $568,116.