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NORA objects to California Assembly’s proposed definition of used oil

Assembly Bill 628 was introduced to the California Legislature in February. While the intention of the bill was to make a small change—expanding the definition of “used oil” to be from any source, thereby promoting the use of bio-based and synthetic lubricants—it has met with some resistance. At its mid-year meeting in Chicago, Ill., U.S.A., NORA (formerly known as the National Oil Recycling Association) discussed its objection to AB 628.

NORA said it is not opposed to bio-lubricants, however, this bill is “racing through the legislature” without considering the capability of the aftermarket system and re-refiners, said NORA Executive Director Scott Parker during the meeting of the Re-refined Lubricant Working Group. Re-refiners do not all have the capacity to process bio-based products, he said, and AB 628 does not solve this problem. Additionally, when re-refining used oil to something other than base oil, there may be restrictions on bio-based materials being present. For instance, in marine applications, there are such restrictions.

If passed, Parker explained, this bill would mean that California state’s regulation would be less stringent than U.S. federal regulations, which could cause the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to de-certify California’s hazardous waste program. Furthermore, used oils from California often make their way to other states for processing, so this is not a problem that would be contained to one state.

On 1 July in Sacramento, Calif., the state senate’s Environmental Quality committee will conduct a hearing, and some NORA members plan to testify. Three NORA member-companies have contributed funds to hire a lobbyist in California.

Additionally, NORA has requested a meeting with the Solid Waste office of the U.S. EPA to discuss its concerns about AB 628. In his letter requesting the meeting with the EPA, Parker noted that AB 628 does not consider the possibility that bio-lubes have the potential to be hazardous and that mixing them with petroleum-based lubricants could cause problems.

A topic for future study, he said, is to find out what percentage of bio-based materials a re-refiner can handle. While bio-lubes is a growing market segment, the formulations are still relatively unknown and could affect re-refining yield or harm re-refining equipment.