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Sorting out hazardous materials regulations.

Businesses that own underground storage tanks and those companies that transport oil products or hazardous materials by air, land or water will be the hardest hit by new federal and state legislation this year. A summary of the major impacts appears below.

These "hazmat" laws and other changes at the legislative and agency levels are indications of a growing trend toward stricter and more complex federal and state regulation of hazardous materials. Enviromnental programs that originated in the 1980s under acronyms such as CERCLA, RCRA and SARA are picking up steam as the 1990s progress.

Companies of all sizes now are being asked to comply with new and stricter reporting and recordkeeping requirements, to meet higher insurance limits, and to implement costly operational, employee training and management requirements.

The proliferation of regulations has brought criticism from business owners, who say they are frustrated by the government communication system for notifying businesses of regulations and by the lack of coordination between agencies writing regulations about hazardous materials and hazardous waste. Regulations that have been drafted and are available for public comment are published in the Federal Register, a newspaper-quality government records publication available at public libraries or by subscription.

Larger companies subscribe directly to the Federal Register and typically have a full-time staff that monitors government regulation, but small companies cannot afford this luxury. And most of the time, agencies don't have the budget to provide business owners with copies of regulations undergoing the approval process.

Carl Lautenberger, federal on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Alaska, feels the criticisms are valid. "Alaska doesn't have as big a support net as other states. It's a little more isolated," he says. "Large companies and the support industry to the oil industry generally keep up on the regs. But the smaller business is definitely lacking in knowledge and application of the regulations."

Because most of the regulatory agencies, federal and state, are strapped for funds, enforcement is minimal, except in the event of a spill or accident. This fact tempts many small-business owners to claim ignorance.

But the stakes are rising for those companies who don't comply. Businesses can expect to pay massive cleanup costs if a spill or release occurs. They also can be hit by third-party liability claims and judgments, be assessed fines and penalties by federal and state regulators, and be presented with a bill for emergency response and cleanup by local fire departments.

Regulators encourage people to ask for assistance. George LaMore, an industrial hygienist and consultant with the state Department of Occupational Safety and Health, encourages businesses to consult the agency's "voluntary compliance" section, which provides free consultation and safety audits without penalty. Likewise, EPA and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) provide consultation and a number of guidance documents to help explain the regulations and to assist companies in filing required reports.

But frequently companies fear alerting regulators to problems by asking for help. As a result, many are calling on a cadre of environmental consultants who specialize in specific areas of the hazardous materials industry, such as air transportation, employee safety and health, hazmat training, and hazardous waste cleanup.

LaMore says a lot of vendors have jumped on the hazmat bandwagon, but that companies should realize that the regulations are always open to interpretation. "There's a lot of misunderstanding from misinformation," he says.

Both regulators and consultants say that businesses need to first determine whether the regulations apply to their operations. DOSH's LaMore advises, "The regulations are overwhelming. Look first at the scope and application section at the front of the regulation and decide if it applies to what you are doing." As an example, LaMore points out that a lot of businesses are sending to expensive HAZWOPER training employees whose activities don't fall into the scope and application outlined in OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response standard.

EPA's Lautenberger cautions companies not to overreact when they first hear about environmental and safety regulations. Frequently, government agencies have difficulty getting adequate funding to effectively monitor and enforce the programs in their entirety. An example of this is the reporting deadlines set under the Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act Title III regulations in 1986, which are just now being put in place by the state DEC.

Filling the information void has become a key role for industry trade organizations and associations, which are very active in informing their members of pending legislation and in lobbying for revisions. The Associated General Contractors of Alaska, the Teamsters, and the Alaska Trucking Association routinely send legislative updates to their members.

Steve Hafling, owner of Color Art Printing, says he took action to reduce his use of hazardous materials when the Printing Industry of America, a trade organization for printers, began alerting members to health and environmental hazards involved in the printing industry. Hafling says belonging to the trade organization means expensive monthly dues, but it has more than paid for itself in his peace of mind and in lowered liability and insurance costs.

Hafling and others also have worked with the Alaska Health Project, a non-profit organization providing consultation in hazardous waste reduction and pollution prevention for small businesses. Alaska Health's Waste Reduction Assistance Program (WRAP) suggests practical, low-cost waste reduction techniques for businesses and has compiled detailed waste-reduction audits on 21 different types of Alaskan businesses, such as automotive repair shops and fish processors.

David Wigglesworth, who heads the new Pollution Prevention Program at DEC, says business owners will begin to see DEC and EPA shift in emphasis from compliance regulation to promotion of waste-reduction and pollution-aprevention technologies. The strategy is intended to minimize the complexities of complying with the proliferation of hazardous materials and hazardous waste regulations.

The Federal Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, passed by Congress in October of last year, authorizes funding of $8 million in state matching grants for programs to develop source-reduction techniques. Under this program, DEC will begin promoting "compliance with hazardous materials regulations through preventive approaches."

DEC will provide companies with information about how to reduce quantities and stocks of hazardous materials wherever possible and to eliminate hazardous waste through chemical substitutions, changes in industrial processes, reuse, recycling, and the use of new technologies to reduce the quantity and toxicity of hazardous substances before they have a chance to enter the environment.

Though many businesses may hope to plead ignorance of the rapidly evolving requirements related to hazardous-materials storage and handling, the best solution for managers is to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the job of hazardous materials management planning. The description of the 1990s as the Environmental Decade is likely to stick. I.the Printing Industry of America, a trade organization for printers, began alerting members to health and environmental hazards involved in the printing industry. Hafling says belonging to the trade organization means expensive monthly dues, but it has more than paid for itself in his peace of mind and in lowered liability and insurance costs.

Hafling and others also have worked with the Alaska Health Project, a non-profit organization providing consultation in hazardous waste reduction and pollution prevention for small businesses. Alaska Health's Waste Reduction Assistance Program (WRAP) suggests practical, low-cost waste reduction techniques for businesses and has compiled detailed waste-reduction audits on 21 different types of Alaskan businesses, such as automotive repair shops and fish processors.

David Wigglesworth, who heads the new Pollution Prevention Program at DEC, says business owners will begin to see DEC and EPA shift in emphasis from compliance regulation to promotion of waste-reduction and pollution-prevention technologies. The strategy is intended to minimize the complexities of complying with the proliferation of hazardous materials and hazardous waste regulations.

The Federal Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, passed by Congress in October of last year, authorizes funding of $8 million in state matching grants for programs to develop source-reduction techniques. Under this program, DEC will begin promoting "compliance with hazardous materials regulations through preventive approaches.'

DEC will provide companies with information about how to reduce quantities and stocks of hazardous materials wherever possible and to eliminate hazardous waste through chemical substitutions, changes in industrial processes, reuse, recycling, and the use of new technologies to reduce the quantity and toxicity of hazardous substances before they have a chance to enter the environment.

Though many businesses may hope to plead ignorance of the rapidly evolving requirements related to hazardous-materials storage and handling, the best solution for managers is to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the job of hazardous materials management planning. The description of the 1990s as the Environmental Decade is likely to stick.

HAZARDOUS WASTE

This summer, DEC is distributing for public review and comment a new set of hazardous waste regulations for the state of Alaska. These regulations will bring the state up to EPA federal regulations promulgated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) over the past four years and expand the definition of "hazardous waste."

The new definition calls for use of a new method to identify hazardous waste materials - the Toxic Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP). It replaces the former list of hazardous wastes used by EPA under 40 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations).

The TCLP analyzes and samples the level of toxicity in a waste substance by leaching it through a medium. The process is designed to show how a substance would act in a landfill. Materials that fail the TCLP analysis are defined as a hazardous waste and can only be treated in a permitted hazardous-waste management facility.

For Alaskan businesses, the greatest impact of the regulations appears to be the potential to restrict on-site soil remediation and local disposal of hydrocarbon-contaminated soils, because benzene is now considered a hazardous waste in concentrations exceeding 0.5 parts per million.

UNDERGROUND STORAGE TANKS

Another key area this year for Alaskan business owners is underground storage tanks. The EPA originally set a deadline of Oct. 26, 1991, for owners of underground storage tanks to demonstrate "financial responsibility" in the amount of $1 million in bonding and environmental liability insurance. Recently, however, the EPA has agreed to review the requirement in response to repeated complaints from tank owners.

Business owners are finding themselves caught in a legal Catch 22: They cannot get the $1 million insurance protection without certifying they already have a clean site. According to Jim Hayden, contaminated-site chief with DEC's Enviromnental Quality Division, although DEC has a $5.5 million tank assistance funding program to help tank owners certify they have a clean site, the agency has received applications for more than $12 million in assistance.

Revised state DEC regulations are currently out for public comment and were expected to be adopted by midsummer. These regulations set stricter standards for tank registration, tank testing, site assessments, and corrective action and cleanup in the event of a leaking tank. DEC also has instituted a new certification program for underground storage tank consultants and workers.

OIL SPILL CONTINGENCY

June 1 was the deadline set for compliance with new state oil spill contingency and financial responsibility regulations. The regulations originated as part of a package of bills passed by the state legislature in 1989 and 1990 in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Similar federal legislation is not expected to go into effect until 1992.

Tug and barge operators and fuel oil distributors are incensed about the 1991 state deadline because it was passed without providing them with detailed regulations that spell out how the law will be administered. Although the law was passed with the Exxon Valdez disaster in mind and was designed for large crude-oil shippers, it also targets much smaller operators, who say it is impossible for them to get the required insurance and meet the costs of complying with new requirements for spill contingency gear, cleanup response time and spill containment.

HAZARDOUS MATERIALS TRANSPORTATION

Perhaps the greatest impact to businesses of all kinds comes in new regulations developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to standardize the shipping of hazardous materials by all modes of transport - air, water, rail and highway. On Oct. 1, the federal DOT Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) regulations will align the United States with United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization international shipping and packaging requirements.

One section of the HMTA, called HM-181, introduces new "performance-oriented packaging" standards that will be phased in over five years and are expected to streamline international hazardous materials shipments. Other sections of the law require changes in the information required on shipping documents or manifests, including new product name designations and identification numbers, new hazard classes and packing groups," metric weights and measures, labeling and placarding requirements, and improved emergency response information.

WORKER TRAINING

The state Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) standard for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, sometimes called HAZWOPER, was amended in May of 1991 to parallel those enforced by the federal OSHA. An earlier state HAZWOPER standard called for 80 hours of general training for workers rather than the 40-hour federal requirement.

The federal standard originally was designed to address the special health and safety hazards affecting workers who deal with hazardous waste either as part of their regular work activities or during response to emergencies involving hazardous wastes. The standard was designed for cleanup of national priority sites and for instigating corrective action as specified under CERCLA, RCRA and SARA Title III regulations.

Since then, the HAZWOPER standard has been applied to employees of hazardous-waste cleanup firms, regardless of where workers are doing the cleanup. At this time, DOSH is not providing certification of trainers or programs, but federal OSHA is proposing accreditation criteria for consultants who want to train workers involved in hazardous-waste site operations. A final rule is expected in November. 1
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Title Annotation:includes related articles
Author:Boardman, Nancy
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Words:2295
Previous Article:Lisa Haas: woman entrepreneur & environmental consultant.
Next Article:What ever happened to SARA?
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