In July 2011, the U.S. EPA proposed changes to the regulatory standing of scrap metal, essentially eliminating the presumption that scrap metal, when recycled, is not hazardous or solid waste.
“Of all the regulations I’ve seen in my career, this proposed change is by far the most dangerous to our industry,” ISRI Chair John Sacco said at the time. “This truly is the battle of our professional lives.” For recyclers, the proposed new rule would require burdensome inspection processes, documentation of the inspections of each load, and lots of paperwork, said Scott Horne, then ISRI’s general counsel and vice president of government relations. To counter this threat, ISRI retained international law firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart (now K&L Gates) and hired three consulting firms to conduct research in support of its case. Armed with the results of the three consultants’ studies, ISRI drafted comments on the rulemaking, submitting them in October 2011. ISRI also embarked on a multipronged strategy that included encouraging members to submit their own comments on the rulemaking, and it retained lobbying firm The Podesta Group to start laying the groundwork for a legislative fix in Congress if its worst-case scenario came about: if the EPA implemented the rule as written. In addition, ISRI worked with a legislative consultant with connections in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, which reviews every proposed regulation published in the Federal Register. Plus, ISRI staff met with EPA representatives, including the assistant administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response as well as the EPA staff who drafted the proposed rule. Those discussions prompted the assistant administrator to ask the EPA staff to “go back and review everything they had done based upon this new information.” When the EPA published its final rule in January 2015, the agency rewrote the regulations to effectively bring the industry back to the status quo before the proposed revisions. “I’d say we got 97.5 percent of what needed to be either removed or changed,” Horne said. “So it was, by all accounts, a tremendous success for ISRI and the industry.”