Changes to Part 201 and Part 213: A benefit to Michigan’s business climate?

For far too many years, Michigan businesses have been frustrated in efforts to comply with the State’s environmental regulations under Act 451.  Site closures were difficult (if not impossible), and it seemed that there were no finalities to site investigations.  This frustration, expressed by the business community, resulted in Governor Rick Snyder’s Environmental Advisory Committee and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Collaborative Stakeholders Initiative.

Anxious for substantive change, these initiatives were largely applauded by the business community.  So with the passage of Public Act 446 of 2012 (PA 446), there is great anticipation (and maybe a little skepticism) about removing some uncertainty as it relates to environmental projects in Michigan.

A few highlights among the many changes in PA 446 include the following:

  • Clarifies that site-specific criteria may be numeric or non-numeric.  This relates to the issue of free product and provides avenues for site closure not previously available under the regulations.
  • Underground storage tank cleanups (Part 213) can now use the groundwater venting criteria in Part 201.  This acknowledges the scientific rationale used in Part 201 and applies it to Part 213.
  • Allows use of Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) standards to be used to evaluate and close manufacturing sites.  Previously, criteria established by the MDEQ based on conservative exposure assumptions were applied to all situations.  Now, in a workplace situation where the chemical is being used, MIOSHA criteria, which are often less restrictive, can be applied.  Defaulting to established worker exposure pathway values should be helpful in closing some (manufacturing) sites with potential indoor air issues.
  • Simplifies the regulations of soil relocation under Part 201.  This should save money by allowing for more opportunities to reuse soil on site rather than filling up landfill space.
  • For those seeking to submit a No Further Act (NFA) report, it should now be more straight forward and attainable.  An NFA is now available for those liable, as well as those not liable, for the contamination.
  • A “Certificate of Completion” is now available.  This certificate provides confirmation from the MDEQ that the response activity was completed in compliance with Part 201. The MDEQ can grant the Certificate, deny the request, or notify the submitter that there is insufficient information.  The MDEQ then must specify what information is missing and is necessary for a decision.
  • While there are many final rule changes, the amendment extends the deadline to revise (or rescind) the cleanup criteria to December 31, 2013.

Will all of these changes really make a difference?  We’ll know first-hand as we are currently assisting our clients in an attempt to “test the waters” on what many view as some very practical and much needed changes in Michigan’s environmental regulations.

If you have questions about the applicability of the changes to your site, contact Jeffrey Bolin, M.S., CHMM (jbolin@dragun.com) or Matthew Schroeder, M.S., P.E. (mschroeder@dragun.com) at 248-932-0228.

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