Take Advantage of State EPA Assistance ProgramsPosted 6/25/2007
By Dennis Sterwerf, AAM
Everyone in the automotive repair business knows there are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules and regulations that must be followed to do business. My collision repair business is in Ohio, and I have found that trying to meet all of the environmental regulations that are out there is a pretty daunting task. Ohio (as well as other states) offers assistance on how to be compliant and even offers some financial assistance if there is a financial burden involved in meeting those regulations. Every state has an assistance program of some type, and collision repair facilities should take advantage of those programs.
In 1999, I was serving as a member of the Ohio Board of Motor Vehicle Collision Repair Registration. We asked Mark Shanahan, executive director of the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA), to give a presentation on the type of services it provides to collision repair facilities. At that time and still today, Ohio has repair facilities - both mechanical and collision - that have pollution-reducing equipment (paint booths, parts washer, dust collectors, oil burning furnaces, etc.) and do not know whether they are compliant with Ohio's EPA regulations.
The OAQDA is an independent, non-regulatory (meaning no inspection or enforcement), confidential and one-stop shop for finding solutions to air quality problems. Ohio state law says the information a company gives to OAQDA cannot be used in any enforcement action. My kind of place! My paint booth - which I now refer to as my "pollution-reducing source" - has gotten me in trouble in the past as I waded through the confusing and murky waters of EPA regulations. Whenever I had a question, I always felt no one could give me a straight answer until I met Mark Shanahan. He told me that the OAQDA had a financial-assistance program for pollution-reducing sources and that I needed to have more equipment in my shop to combat the pollution.
The OAQDA had a financial instrument for small businesses to assist in covering the up-front costs of financing a compliance-related investment. Improvements to facilities or property that are financed through OAQDA are exempt from property tax assessment for the life of the loan, the state's tangible property tax, and sales and use tax for the purchase of any qualified equipment. The savings also includes the cost of legal fees, engineering and meeting new local zoning regulations. I had to meet new water-retention holding requirements, the hard surface parking lot requirement, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and a new revised local fire code. The fire code required me to install a sprinkler system inside my entire facility. I could see this assistance was going to add up to some kind of savings for me over the years. Every year that property taxes increase, I save more.
I applied for financial assistance and ended up being the first collision repair facility in Ohio to receive it. Since then many others - mostly ASA members - have done the same. The OAQDA had a need to educate the industry of its program. ASA-Ohio worked with Shanahan and put on several meetings throughout the state to educate its members. It is an excellent program, and the best part is I am no longer wondering if I am meeting the pollution-permit requirements because OAQDA works with shops to make sure they are compliant.
Daniel Nickey of the Iowa Air Emission Assistance Program, who is contracted by the state Department of Natural Resources, said every state has such an air quality program in place. Some are just for the permit or regulatory process and others have a version of what Ohio has in place. You can go to www.smallbizenviroweb.org/sba/sbap.html to see what your state has to offer. Or e-mail Nickey at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he can answer your questions.
I find most business owners are shy about asking the EPA questions because they fear the cost of compliance or being fined. But in today's world, businesses need to be green conscious.
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