WASHINGTON - The U.S. EPA, responding to a determined and lengthy campaign by the coatings industry, has decided not to significantly expand the regulation of paint production wastes.

The EPA said it will not define certain wastes generated by paint production as hazardous, an action that reverses a proposal issued a year ago that would have listed those materials as hazardous under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

The National Paint & Coatings Association, which led the campaign against the proposed listing of paint production wastes, said the additional regulatory requirements were unnecessary and unwarranted due to the existence of federal and state regulations that address "any potential risk posed to human health or the environment."

The initial proposal for the hazardous-waste listing, issued in February of 2001, would have instituted a concentration-based hazardous-waste listing provision for a number of liquid and solid waste materials, an action that would have added extensive reporting and record-keeping requirements for the production of waterborne paints.

But the NPCA had attacked the proposal on a number of fronts, including the questionable need for the additional regulation and assertions that the EPA was basing the proposal on inadequate and erroneous industry data that inflated the estimates for the amounts of waste involved. The NPCA estimated that the new requirements would have cost the industry as much as $32.5 million a year, far higher than an EPA estimate of $7.3 million.

"The key thing is that this would have impacted all manufacturers" - small and large companies included, said Alison Keane, an NPCA Government Affairs counsel who has helped argue the association's case against the proposed paint-waste listing. In addition, the proposal would essentially have forced manufacturers to show that their production wastes did not contain the specified materials. "That would have been very costly in terms of record-keeping and reporting," Keane said.

The EPA's decision not to enact the paint-waste listing rule apparently concludes a long-running debate between the agency and the industry that dates back more than 20 years. The EPA initially had proposed a far-reaching paint-waste listing rule, but the industry had succeeded in paring that down to the more narrowly focused plan that was issued last year. But the NPCA continued to argue that the proposal represented unnecessary and costly duplication of existing regulations, saying that the EPA "did not have any facts to justify the listing originally and that nothing in the intervening 20 years had changed" to warrant the listing now.

More information is available from the Environmental Management Committee section of the NPCA website, located at www.paint.org.