It’s not often that you can use “environmental regulation” and “common sense” in the same breath. But the recent action by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) really is common sense and should provide reporting relief, especially for those who handle large volumes of steel.
The intent of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) is to provide information to emergency responders regarding the storage and use of chemicals at facilities. Obviously, this information allows responders to make better decisions in the event of an emergency. However as with any regulation, interpretations can lead to some questionable results.
Under section 311(e)(2) of EPCRA it states, ‘‘any substance present as a solid in any manufactured item to the extent exposure to the substance does not occur under normal conditions of use’’ it is exempt from the definition of hazardous chemical and therefore need not be reported under sections 311 and 312. This makes sense; a 10,000 pound roll of steel does not pose a health hazard to an emergency responder.
But EPA’s interpretation of this basically said that if any part of the solid was altered and led to an exposure (for example welding) then all of the metal should be counted for reporting purposes. Going back to the 10,000 pound roll of steel, if I weld and create an “emission” then ALL of the steel is now counted for reporting purposes. This meant anyone with large volumes steel, such as metal stamping facilities, were required to report under section 311/312 of EPCRA – this didn’t make any sense and it certainly didn’t help emergency responders.
Under the new interpretation, facilities need only consider the “fume or dust” that is emitted to determine EPCRA applicability. So, for example, if you weld, you need only consider the resulting fumes, not the total amount of steel used at your facility. Keep in mind this is a federal rule, so your individual state has latitude to enforce a more strict interpretation. But in general, it appears this will be a positive change for those handling large volumes of steel and for those agencies that likely had no use for data regarding the use and storage of steel and other metals
For more information go to the Federal Register notice http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2010-07-13/pdf/2010-17031.pdf
If you have questions about environmental regulations, environmental audits, or any other environmental compliance issue, contact Matthew Schroeder, P.E. (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 248.932.0228.