Remarks by Samantha Phillips Beers, Esq.,
EPA Mid-Atlantic Region Director, Office of Enforcement, Compliance
and Environmental Justice,
to the Federal Relations Committee of the
American Association of Universities,
July 14, 1999, Washington, D.C.
- EPA holds educational institutions to the same high environmental compliance standards expected of private industry. We expect colleges and universities to be role models for environmental behavior. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
- EPA has found that universities assume that many environmental regulations don't apply to them or that they will not be dealt with in the same manner as other organizations.
- Colleges and universities are regulated and if found to be in violation, subject to possible penalties and negative publicity, just like any other facility.
- Institutions of higher learning need to commit resources and management attention to meet environmental regulations.
- Strive to be leaders.
To help you understand some of the key issues, today,
I will talk about:
- Why EPA is focusing on higher education facilities,
- How this is being done, and
- What you can do to create a culture for environmental responsibility.
Why EPA is focusing on higher education facilities:
- Inspections are showing broad compliance problems that can pose a
threat to the environment, people on campus and nearby communities.
- Yale paid a $69,000 fine in 1995 after being cited for mishandling and mislabeling hazardous chemicals. As a result of the enforcement action, the school also agreed to invest $279,000 in environmental programs on campus and in New Haven.
- The University of Georgia made recent headlines with a potential $2.62 million cleanup of hazardous waste in a landfill that had polluted groundwater.
- Georgetown University and other colleges and universities violated federal regulations while removing and handling asbestos which poses a health threat to workers and the community at large.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found that Penn State University had polluted groundwater in a well with a cancer-causing chemical. The contamination stemmed from fire fighting training center activity conducted on leased land on campus. The cost to correct the problem is now more than $1 million.
- The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality found serious problems at both Virginia Tech from improper use and storage of pesticides and the University of Virginia from improper storage and disposal of hazardous waste.
- The University of New Hampshire faces potential penalties of $308,000 for hazardous waste violations.
- Despite these enforcement actions and many others, violations persist on campuses.
- In addition to protecting public health and the environment, there
are other reasons for focusing on campuses:
- There is a fairness issue. In time of rising costs, it is only fair that all universities face similar costs to operate. This promotes a level playing field.
- EPA wants to help higher education become a better role model
- EPA is charges with protecting public health and the environment. This job doesn't stop at the campus door.
How EPA is focusing on higher education facilities:
Goal is to educate while determining level of compliance and deterring violations.
- Compliance Assistance
- Placing news releases, these talking points and other info on our website. Go to OECEJ Compliance assistance Website
- Presentations like this one
- Providing presenters at workshops organized by college and university organizations.
- Inspections and enforcement
- Can be single media - e.g. asbestos
- Multi-media - asbestos, UST, PCBs, air emissions, lab waste, etc.
- We partner and communicate with our states - they often accompany us on inspections as well as conduct their own inspections.
- Voluntary programs independent of enforcement and compliance. I'll talk more about these later.
What you can do to create a culture for environmental responsibility:
- Communicate from the top the importance of compliance and other environmentally beneficial activities
- Ensure adequate resources for people, equipment and training to carry out environmental activities
- Build bridges to community - Listen to concerns of students, faculty and neighboring community.
- Institute an environmental management system
- Pay attention to self-inspection and record keeping requirements that help identify problems early to avoid costly cleanup problems and penalties
- Conduct regular compliance audits. Some regulated areas include air,
water and waste from a variety of sources that can be found on campuses:
- Transformers and generators.
- Cold storage facilities.
- Underground or above-ground oil and fuel storage tanks.
- Drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities.
- Power plants, incinerators and boilers.
- Lead-based paint and asbestos in campus facilities.
- Medical facilities and labs.
- Vehicle maintenance or training facilities.
- Dry cleaning facilities.
- Veterinary schools, dairies or agricultural facilities
- Radioactive waste.
If you find environmental problems, consider self-disclosing:
- EPA will waive up to 100 percent of all penalties for violations disclosed by a facility if the disclosure meets all of the criteria in the Audit Policy if there is no economic benefit.
- Now is an especially good time to audit to ensure that the Y2K doesn't cause any of your systems to violate environmental laws by accidentally shutting down treatment equipment. EPA has a Y2K policy that eliminates penalties if a facility meets the policy requirements for testing systems.
- EPA also has program specific settlement policies that can reduce liability if you self-disclose but do not meet the audit policy
If EPA finds the violations and assesses penalties, you have fewer options:
- Penalties can be reduced for cooperation
- Some penalties can be offset by conducting a Supplemental Environmental
Project that benefits the environment and the community where the violation
occurred. The criteria is on our website. Examples:
- Boston University reached a settlement with EPA in 1997 in which the school agreed to pay a $253,000 cash penalty, invest $500,000 in environmental projects and conduct a comprehensive environmental audit.
- In exchange for reduced penalties for Clean Water Act violations, the University of the District of Columbia agreed in 1998 to perform testing in a local creek and develop a compliance promotion project for spill prevention, control and countermeasures requirements.
- Haverford College, Western Maryland College, University of Maryland Baltimore County and others performed environmental projects involving PCBs in 1989 settlement of TSCA violations.
Another way to improve environmental performance is to participate in voluntary environmental programs
- Energy Star Buildings is a voluntary partnership that helps institutions save money and protect the environment through energy efficiency. Energy efficiency reduces nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and small particulate matter that contribute to smog and acid rain problem in this area and helps mitigate global warming. The latest trend with colleges and universities is for them to partner with Energy Star Companies as a means to go the energy efficiency route with a minimum of hassle. A few results include:
Reducing the energy cost of running buildings by an average of 30 percent and EPA recognition of more than 450 public and private educational institutions. Wealth of information available at Energy Star with examples of higher education participants such as:
- Delaware State University upgrades to their cooling, heating, and control systems have resulted in an annual energy and operational cost savings of over $648,000 and reduced carbon dioxide by about 3.2 million pounds per year.
- University of Cincinnati invested about $3 million for a return savings of about $1.4 million per year and reduced about 68.7 million pounds per year of carbon dioxide.
- University of Missouri at Columbia invested about $1.7 million for a return savings of about $515,000 per year and about 14.3 million/lbs./year of carbon dioxide.
Some of you might be aware of another EPA program called XL because of the New England Universities Laboratories project. It will look at the use of environmental management plan performance-based standards, the feasibility of integrating OSHA requirements and more.
Resources available to you
- Your own facility managers, campus attorneys, and environmental engineering and related teaching staff
- EPA and state experts and hotline
- Outside technical assistance organizations
- Outside engineers, attorneys and consultants
- Create hotlinks from your own website to EPA and others. Some university websites on environment and safety contain lofty environmental statements and listings of environmental classes, but the campus itself is out of compliance.
- Colleges and universities are regulated, so they can expect to be inspected and fined if violations are found.
- There are benefits from environmental programs such as a healthier environment, a positive public image and possibly cost savings - Pollution often reflects costly waste. Instituting environmental management and compliance auditing systems can help identify opportunities to solve the root of pollution problems and save money over the long term.
- There are many sources of information.
The bottom line is that colleges and universities are entrusted with the education as well as safety of students. Some receive millions of dollars in government funding. Many teach others about the environment daily in classrooms. Colleges and universities are expected to be role models.
We are asking for your help in communicating these messages and to encourage many more universities to be true role models for positive environmental behavior.
- Contact Makeba Morris (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 215-814-2187.
- Public Information Hotline - 800-438-2474
- Business Assistance Hotline - 800-228-8711