EPA's Grant Program Grows Among Automotive SectorPosted 2/10/2005
By Robert W. Varney
The automobile is one of the greatest common denominators in American society today. Almost everyone has at least one vehicle, and the environmental impact of these vehicles - as well as the industries that service them - is profound. While the impact of most auto shops is small, taken together, the environmental influence can be significant.
Developing ways to work with businesses to foster a clean environment is a top priority for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). One of the most effective new programs is the Environmental Results Program (ERP). The EPA has strongly supported the development of ERP models in the auto sector by providing both funding and technical assistance. Several states have developed, or are in the process of developing, model ERP programs for auto body and auto repair shops as well as auto salvage yards.
ERP is a partnership program between state and federal government to provide more effective regulation of small businesses. ERP uses compliance assistance to help businesses understand and certify their compliance with environmental laws. It also uses inspections and performance measurement to ensure that certifications are accurate and that environmental performance is improving.
The ERP was pioneered several years ago in Massachusetts and is now being implemented in 14 states across the country. In New England, Maine is developing a program for auto body and auto repair shops; Vermont is developing one for service stations; and Rhode Island is developing a program for auto salvage yards.
The EPA's ERP was established on the basic premise that small business compliance will improve if facilities have a better understanding of state and federal regulations. With assistance from trade associations, states have designed ERP workbooks and workshops explaining regulatory requirements for particular sectors, alternative pollution prevention approaches and best management practices in plain language that is oriented to business. A central part of ERP is a self-certification program that requires businesses to conduct environmental self-examinations. Based on the results, the facility either certifies its compliance, or if there are problems, the facility files a Return-to-Compliance Plan with the state. In most cases, penalties are not assessed when a return-to-compliance plan is developed; however, the state follows up to see that the problem has been resolved.
EPA New England is proud that Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island were recently awarded State Innovation Grants (SIG) of up to $200,000 each for developing ERP programs. The EPA established the SIG program in 2002 to help strengthen the EPA's innovation partnerships with states and tribes and is aimed at achieving improved environmental results across industry sectors by using compliance assistance and other innovative tools.
ERP is a promising example of using an innovative environmental management approach to successfully link regulatory requirements with compliance assistance and performance measurement in a way that is supportive and helpful to businesses. To learn more about the EPA's innovative programs, visit www.epa.gov/innovation/state.
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