Category Archives: permits

EPA’s Tailoring Rule on Greenhouse Gas

EPA issued its final rule on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on June 3, 2010. Under this rule, GHG will be regulated in two phases under the Clean Air Act.

Phase 1 will go from January 2, 2011 to June 30, 2011. If you are currently under a PSD permit (Prevention of Significant deterioration) and you emit more than 75,000 tpy of GHG, you will need to use Best Available Control Technology (BACT) to control you GHG emission.

Phase 2 goes into effect July 1, 2011 and ends on June 30, 2013. PSD permits will apply to new construction projects that emit more than 100,000 tpy of GHG. Modifications at existing facilities  that exceed 75,000 tpy of GHG will be subject to PSD requirements. Also if you emit more than 100,000 tpy of GHG, you will need to get a Title V permit!

Of course – this is America. So expect lawsuits to be filed against EPA on this final rule.

GHG is defined to include CO2, CH4, HFCs, PFCs, and SF6. For a complete set of the Tailoring Rule, click here. There is also a pretty interesting article in Pollution Engineering Magazine on this topic written by my fellow contributing editor Lynn Bergeson.

We have 2-day environmental regulations seminars scheduled in Florida (Fort Myers and Orlando), California (Santa Ana and San Francisco), Nevada (Las Vegas), Georgia (Atlanta), Texas (Houston), New Jersey (Newark) and Virginia (Virginia Beach). For our latest 2010/2011 environmental seminar schedule, click here.


Resist the temptation ……don’t do it!

Has this ever  happened to you?

angry manAfter you tell your VP of production that he cannot install his new equipment because he has to get a pre-construction permit first, he tells you that it is unacceptable and he threatens to call the state senator or the governor. He wants to “bypass” this lengthy permitting process because customers are clamoring for his products. He has orders to fill. He has to make his numbers. 

Situations like this happen a lot more frequently than you think. The production folks somehow get the idea that the sole purpose of the regulatory agency is to assist them in meeting their production quotas. To the contrary, the agency people are there to implement state and federal laws that say you cannot install any new air emission sources without first getting a pre-construction permit. That’s the law of the land.

If your VP calls up the governor’s office and tries to do an end run on the permitting process, two things will likely happen. First, he will get turned down.  The governor’s office will most likely tell your VP to pay an extra fee to get on the “fast permitting track”. Most agencies have that program. He will still have to wait and get his construction permit.

Second, you will have made an enemy in the permit writer once he  finds out that you try to bypass him. Put yourself in the permit writer’s shoes. How would you feel if some one goes over your head to your boss?

The best way to get a permit in a timely manner is to be upfront with the agency. Provide everything the agency needs to process your permit in a timely manner. Try to do it right the first time. Do not play cat-and-mouse game with the permit writer. Be courteous. Be professional. Remember – the permit is simply doing his job – just like you are. He is not your enemy. But if you treat him like one, he will become one. 

On last point. If you hire a consultant to get a permit for you, make sure that the consultant has a good working relationship with the agency and your consultant gets along with the permit writer. You do NOT want an arrogant  consultant representing you before the agency.

To fight or not to fight …that is the question

In my last post, I noted the efforts by industry to work with government to forge a solution to the global warming problem. It dawned on me later today that I have a compelling story from my previous life to tell. 

I joined StarKist Seafood in 1989 as its one and only corporate environmental manager. The H.J. Heinz Company owned StarKist at that time. The day after I joined the company, I found out that EPA’s Region 2 (New York) and Region 9 (California) had issued orders to the company to comply with its wastewater discharge permit conditions at its tuna canneries in Puerto Rico and American Samoa – the world’s two largest tuna canneries at that time.

Tuna wastes are very high in organics and nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen). The wastes comes mainly from the thawing of frozen tuna and they contain high concentrations of blood an dfat. These wastes were discharged into the Caribbean Sea in Puerto Rico and Pago Pago Harbor in American Samoa after primary treatment. EPA in both regions – particularly Region 9 –  were very concerned about entrophication of the receiving waters.

pago pago harborRegion 9 came to StarKist and strongly suggested that the company construct a 2-mile long pipeline in the Pago Pago Harbor in order to carry the tuna waste water to a much deeper portion of the harbor to allow for diffusion and dilution.

The  General Manager at StarKist -prior to my joining – was a British engineer who believed that the company should always fight with EPA and delay the process for as long as possible. His philosophy was that for every year delayed, the company would save so much money by avoiding the expenditure. He came up with all kinds of reasons for not extending the outfall: (1) It was too costly. (2) It would cost the company $7 million and the company simply could not afford it. (3) The company might have to close the plant in Samoa and throw thousands of people out of work on the small island.

While he was making such argument to EPA, the CEO of Heinz was flying around the world in his opulent private corporate jet. The CEO at that time was also ranked as the highest paid CEO in America – pulling in over $60 million a year.

So it was not hard to understand why EPA was not buying this British engineer’s financial hardship case. EPA finally issued Administrative Orders to StarKist and threatened to take the company to court to compell its compliance.

The British engineer was fired by his boss for talking back to him (in an unrelated case) just before I joined the company.

Faced with EPA’s enforcement order, I contacted several pipeline contractors in America and New Zealand and obtained bids on constructing a 2 mile long pipeline to carry our tuna waste away from the shallow harbor. The cost turned out not to be $7 million as claimed. It was more like $1.5 million. I also hired a competent ocean engineering firm in Hawaii and conducted an engineering feasibility study that demonstrated that the pipeline would meet EPA’s objectives.

With this information, I went to our Vice President of Operations and told him that he had two options: He could continue to fight with EPA and delay the construction and face severe penalties from EPA and a court-ordered construction project that would be much more expensive than $1.5 million. Or we could go ahead and build the pipeline and begin to comply with the law of the land.

Much to his credit, the Vice President went along and we began construction of the outfall.  We completed the pipeline 3 months ahead of EPA’s schedule despite losing two weeks of construction time due to a typhoon.

The moral of this story is that we did not let EPA dictate the details of the pipeline. We did not fight and try to prolong the inevitable. We simply did it our way but in such a way that met EPA’s objectives.

Everyone was happy at the end.

Managing your environmental data and tracking compliance

filesAs an environmental manager, you face a myriad of time consuming tasks on a daily basis. One of them is the management of environmental data. The other is the tracking of compliance. If you are responsible for several site remediation jobs across the country, how do you make sure that the different tasks associated with these jobs are being carried out in a timely fashion? How do you track the performance of your environmental programs?


For small jobs, many managers use Excel spreadsheets to track deadlines. You can also use Microsoft Outlook to track the different tasks and deadlines. For example, if you are a large quantity generator, you program your Outlook to alert you a month before the March 1, 2010 deadline to prepare your biennial report. If you have quarterly reports that you need to file under your air permit, you set up the deadlines in Outlook or in a spreadsheet.


To track new regulations, by far the best and least expensive way is to subscribe to EPA’s listservers. Many state agencies have similar services too. And they are all free. All you need to do is to subscribe to the service on the agencies’ websites and they will email you alerts on new and pending regulatory developments. There are also commercial services such as Business and Legal Reports that offer regulatory updates for an annual subscription fee.


If you are a Fortune 500 company with limited staff and multiple locations – either domestic or worldwide – a spreadsheet may not be the right tool for you. You might want to consider subscribing to commercial services that track both compliance issues and deadlines for you.


There is a company based in California that provides such service. It is called Locus Technologies. Its website is It has recently rolled out a series of programs (e-Task, ePortal and eSite) designed to help medium and large companies track their environmental performance worldwide. According to Marian Carr, Locus’ Vice President, many of their customers are Fortune 500 companies – including several major energy and defense companies. The costs of such programs are based on the number of users with a subscription fee of between $15 and $25/person per month plus an annual license fee.


Carr maintains that her company is not in the business of keeping track of changing regulatory requirements. It partners with other companies that specialize in that area. What this company does is integrate compliance updates into its tracking program so that its users will stay on top of the deadlines.


Programs like that being offered by Locus are designed to allow company employees from different locations to update their activities online with relative ease. The data base resides on a remote off-site server that is accessible to the customers’ senior managers who want to have a bird’s eye view of their corporate compliance picture.


According to Carr, eTask has a simple intuitive user interface and is easy to learn. She said: “eTask is very simple and I would be shocked if it took more than a one hour webinar to get up to speed on the application”.


After viewing a demonstration of eTask, it is clear that it can be a useful tool for medium to large scale companies with multiple locations. If you are a small company, you may be better off tracking your activities with spreadsheets or Outlook.


The storage and management of environmental data is also becoming a big concern for many companies. Employees may be storing their environmental data on different spreadsheets at multiple locations. That can become a problem when someone in senior management wants to look at the big picture. A similar problem arises when you have different consultants working on different projects for you. Your environmental data are going to be stored in different formats at different locations. There is no guarantee that these formats are compatible with one another. You are at the mercy of your consultants.


You basically have two options. One is to have your consultants send you backup copies of all your data and then you find a way to make them compatible. Another option is to store all your data at one central location under one format. Companies like Locus store their customers’ environmental data at one central location.  


One note of caution: If you are looking for an integrated system, you want to look for systems that have document management tools, site information and permit tracking tools built into it.


Tracking compliance performance will be a higher priority in the coming years. With the Democratic White House and Congress, you can expect a much more focused approach on environmental regulations and compliance enforcement than in the previous eight years.