On May 30, 2022, the Ministry of Environment (the “MOE”) announced its determination to proactively improve regulations by (i) creating hotline with economic organizations, etc. and creating Environmental Regulation On-site Response TF1 directly under the Vice Minister of Environment to promptly implement recommendations through a top-down methodology, (ii) having the Minister and Vice Minister visit the sites subject to the regulations to businesses’ proposed practical solutions (on-site actions to resolve pending regulatory issues), and (iii) the Minister hosting a monthly meeting to discuss innovative strategies for environmental regulations and to review the status of regulatory improvements.
Based on the above objective agenda, the MOE announced a plan to reduce overlapping regulations under the Chemical Substances Control Act (the “CSCA”) and Wastes Control Act (the “WCA”).
Current status: Wastes containing hazardous substances include waste acid, waste base (alkali), and waste toxic substances, etc., which are considered hazardous substances under the CSCA and designated wastes under the WCA. Accordingly, designated waste treatment businesses have been subject to all regulations under the CSCA as well as the WCA in connection with periodic inspections, technical personnel, safety trainings, facility standards, wastes handling standards, and business permits, etc.
Proposed improvement: The MOE intends to develop a system where only the WCA would apply to waste treatment businesses during the process of storing and transporting wastes containing hazardous substances. However, the CSCA will continue to apply under certain circumstances, such as when (i) waste treatment businesses recycle wastes to manufacture or supply hazardous substances or (ii) responding to chemical accident is necessary.
Plans: Specifically, the MOE plans to amend relevant laws in 2022, but may utilize the Active Administrative System (i.e., a system to pursue relevant issues by obtaining opinions from the Active Administration Committee within the MOE, if it is determined impracticable to make a decision due to unclear laws or regulations) earlier if the direction of the amendment is set forth sooner.
This issue appears to have arisen from the lack of reciprocal exemption under both laws: while Article 3 of the CSCA exempts chemical substances subject to other laws and regulations from its scope, it does not provide an exemption for the wastes subject to the WCA. Likewise, Article 3 of the WCA defines substances that are exempt from its scope, but does not provide an exemption for (hazardous) chemical substances subject to the CSCA.
The MOE’s regulatory improvement plan designates “waste treatment businesses” as one of the subjects of deregulation. However, it warrants further monitoring to see if the above regulatory improvement would also apply to businesses discharging general wastes.
1 The MOE announced to intensively operate the Environmental Regulation On-site Response TF for 1 year from May 2022 to April 2023.