In July 2013, the EPA proposed a regulation that would require electronic reporting for current paper-based NPDES reports. According to the Federal Register filing, the EPA believes this action will save time and resources for permittees, states, tribes, territories, and the EPA while improving compliance and providing better protection of US waters.
The EPA stated that the advancement would allow “better allocation and use of limited program resources and enhance transparency and public accountability by providing regulatory agencies and the public with more timely, complete, accurate, and nationally-consistent sets of data about the NPDES program and potential sources of water pollution.
Because of a technological-driven culture, the concept of utilizing technology for preparedness planning continues to expand. Companies have been embracing the benefits of streamlined web-based preparedness programs because of cost efficiency, consistency, information accessibility, and the ability to maximize administrative productivity. By advancing submission practices and raising standards, the EPA embraces a higher level of accuracy, availability, and consistency.
The most widely applicable regulations are those under the realm of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). While the proposal to require electronic filing and reporting would, at completion of the ruling, affect NPDES-permitted facilities only, the concept could be repeated for other EPA required submissions. In the future, other agencies could adopt similar practices. Below are a few of the EPA requirements that may be applicable to industrial companies:
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) - Permitting program designed to control water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States. Industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters.
Facility Response Plan (FRP) - Requires an owner or operator of a facility that could reasonably be expected to cause substantial harm to the environment by discharging oil into or on the navigable waters or adjoining shorelines to prepare and submit a facility response plan.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) - The primary governing law that oversees the generation and containment of solid and hazardous waste.
Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans (SPCC) – Requires developing site specific plans for oil storage facilities that describe spill prevention and response procedures.
Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know (EPCRA) - Establishes requirements for federal, state and local governments, Indian tribes, and industry regarding emergency planning and "Community Right-to-Know" reporting on hazardous and toxic chemicals to enable a more effective emergency response planning process.
The ability to streamline the regulatory submission process is advantageous for both industry and regulatory agencies. As opposed to paper plans, web-based planning is extremely beneficial for organizations that must submit multiple applicable regulatory requirements. This is especially true when companies have facilities that cross county and state borders. Despite operating within the same industry, each site may need to comply with specific local, state, and/or federal EPA regulatory mandates. Implementing a web-based planning system with a regulatory tracking element can eliminate redundancies across converging compliance requirements.
A tracking system should itemize applicable federal, state and local regulations and include categorical information that satisfies that regulation. A tracking system should contain the following components, at a minimum:
- Operational Category: Categories can range from air quality and hazardous materials, to construction safety and general safety and health. Depending on the detail required by the regulations, further breakouts by subcategories may also be required.
- Applicable Regulation Level: Regulations should be further broken down to Federal, state or local regulation categories.
- Update History: Date that each regulation was last updated.
- Compliance Task: Tasks that needs to be completed for compliance.
- Compliance Feedback: Applicable notes.
- Industry Standard: Industry standards or best practices that apply to the specific -regulatory requirement.
- Cross-reference: Itemize list of additional regulations that may be applicable to the information provided.
- Facility Compliance Responsibility: Person(s) responsible to maintain compliance for each regulatory requirement.
- Action Item Reporting: Provides a list of outstanding and completed action items, along with due dates and persons assigned. Reports should have filters to customize queries as required by the users.
Implementing a regulatory tracking management system can eliminate redundancies across converging compliance specifications. Using this database technology allows association of each regulatory requirement to applicable facilities. Additionally, updating evolving regulatory information can be effectively managed across multiple facilities with the use of a database. With required response plans in an easy to use electronic format, companies can easily adhere to new, and future, regulatory submission policies.
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