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What are your thoughts on EPA’s plan to review our existing regulations?

2011 February 28

EPA is beginning a periodic retrospective review of our existing significant regulations to determine whether any of those regulations should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed. Our goal is to make EPA regulations less burdensome while still achieving their regulatory objectives. We also want you to help us design the plan we will use to periodically review regulations.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. Bill Steele of State of Alaska permalink
    February 28, 2011

    Periodic review is a good thing and I support the effort. As they say, the one constant is change. EPA needs to look at regulations concerning deferments and excemptins from UST regulations, such as commercial heating oil tanks, which are currently excempt.

  2. John Schweizer of T3W Business Solutions, Inc. permalink
    March 3, 2011

    I strongly agree with the effort “to determine whether … regulations should be modified, streamlined, expanded or repealed to make the agency’s regulatory program more effective and or less burdensome in achieving its regulatory objectives.” This is a laudable goal, and in my view long overdue. However, the devil is in the details.
    I would urge extreme caution in relaxing regulations that would affect known pathways of human exposure such air pollution regulations, discharges to surface waters, drinking water standards, etc. These regulations often protect Environmental Justice (EJ) communities more than others, and it should be a matter of principle to have conservative regulations where human health is directly affected, particularly where the burden can be disproportionate.
    I also urge caution relaxing regulations that are protective of the environment, where natural resources can be degraded. For example, there is a lot of “buzz” about how drinking water resources are the ‘new oil.” Regulations that protect drinking water resources, such as regulations affecting groundwater quality and surface water runoff should not be relaxed. In my view the public interest is to strengthen these regulations. There is a long-term payback to the taxpayers who foot the bill, for doing so.
    On the other hand, regulations that require cumbersome, inefficient, and wasteful processes for protecting human health and the environment should be examined closely for opportunities to make regulations more effective and less burdensome. An example are regulations and guidance documents that affect the processes for cleanup in compliance with RCRA and CERCLA. Much of the money is spent on reports that are repetitive, expensive, and grossly inefficient. Not only do they require thousands of hours of professional time to produce, many hours of professional time are required to read and understand them.
    As a professional working in the environmental remediation consulting industry I should be grateful for these “consultants’ full employment acts.” However as an engineer and a taxpayer I am appalled by the wastefulness. I believe that the body of knowledge built up over the past thirty-plus years allows us to adopt more efficient processes akin to classical design- build processes. A site should be assessed and investigated in accordance with ASTM standards, a design basis should be established, drawings and specifications should be prepared by an A&E firm with experienced personnel, and a qualified contractor should execute the cleanup. Remedial Investigation reports and Feasibility Studies, and the other voluminous and repetitive documents in the RCRA and CERCLA processes, were useful when we didn’t know how to clean up environmental sites, but now we do. I suspect part of the reason these reports were done was to fend off lawsuits. However, now that standards exist and adequate errors and emissions insurance is available for environmental firms, I think the old RCRA and CERCLA cleanup processes have outlived their usefulness, and are actually precipitating lawsuits from disgruntled communities that don’t like the plan that emerges from these confusing and cumbersome processes.
    I applaud the EPA for its commitment to using common sense and transparency to review federal regulations and that EPA will solicit public comment when the review plan has been prepared. I also thank the EPA, and Mathy Stanislaus in particular, for this forum. I appreciate the opportunity for “boots on the ground” like me to be heard.
    John W. Schweizer, P.E.

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