AGC-EPA Investigate Industry Concerns on Storm Water Enforcement, Possible Reforms
Storm water requirements are the most frequently mentioned concern in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) discussions with AGC contractor members. With EPA enforcement attention and the construction industry’s concerns in mind, AGC and EPA are focusing their partnership work on EPA’s current inspection, enforcement, and assistance policies and practices.
EPA has hired an outside consulting firm to interview AGC contractors (anonymously) and federal inspectors, using a prepared set of open-ended questions. Those questions are based on observations and concerns expressed by AGC contractors including:
- Confusion about overlapping and sometimes conflicting federal, state, and local requirements; reports that EPA inspectors do not consistently and uniformly interpret federal and/or state permitting requirements.
- Poor communication between inspectors and site operators; opening/exit interviews frequently are not conducted.
- Limited opportunity for self-audits without threat of penalty; need for OSHA-like self-audit incentives and opportunity to earn exemption from routine inspections.
- Need for on-site compliance assistance without threat of penalty (e.g., OSHA-like confidential onsite assistance).
- Long lag time between inspection and enforcement response; limited use of EPA’s new Expedited Settlement Offer (ESO) Policy and room for improvement.
- No “right to cure” minor violations for first time offenders.
Contractor feedback on these issues will provide evidence of whether or not current EPA polices and practices contribute to compliance problems and whether alternative policies and practices could reduce the industry’s burden without sacrificing environmental performance. A main focus of the AGC-EPA Partnership is to reform environmental rules to bring both economic and environmental benefits.
A final report to EPA should be completed in March 2005. It will include background information on requirements, policies, and practices; a summary of interview responses; and—if appropriate—an in-depth analysis of possibilities for improvement. EPA already has started analyzing information (prepared by its consultants) on the feasibility of offering onsite storm water assistance at construction sites. A November 2004 report summarizes possible models—like OSHA Consulting Services (OSHCon)—that provide free and confidential technical assistance without the threat of enforcement. It also presents a number of construction-specific issues that EPA would need to consider before implementing an onsite storm water assistance program.
For additional information, or to relate your experience with an EPA storm water inspection, contact AGC’s Leah Wood Pilconis at (703) 837-5332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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