General. A hallmark of modern environmental statutes is their direction to administrative agencies to promulgate rules and regulations that have the force of law. Over the past 40+ years, a body of regulations has been developed that rivals the federal tax code in its bulk and complexity. We provide sophisticated compliance counseling to make sense of it all. First, we determine whether a particular law or regulation applies to the situation. Then, we explore whether it may be feasible to alter a process, such as through the use of substitute products, and bring the operation beyond the scope of the regulations. Often, our task is defined by a need to sort out and explain the requirements of the regulation.
Permits. We often help our clients obtain, renew and comply with permits or registrations under the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and their state counterparts. For example, in one matter, we clarified the murky concept of “potential to emit” under the CAA, and avoided a future prosecution. In another, we focused on the same concept and assisted a major manufacturer in amending its Title V air permit. In yet another matter, we conducted an in-depth analysis of whether a particular material qualified as “waste” under the RCRA regulations, and helped the client avoid millions of dollars in disposal costs. We also advise clients on the need for CWA permits for discharge of industrial process effluent or storm water under the National Pollutant Elimination Discharge System (NPDES), or for development of wetlands, which also may involve the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (U.S. ACE).
Planning and Reporting. Clients may be subject to one or more requirements to maintain and implement hazardous waste contingency plans, risk management plans (RMPs), and/or spill prevention control and countermeasure plans (SPCCs). Yet, despite even the best efforts to prevent emergencies, spills or sudden releases may occur, and may have to be reported to governmental authorities. Failure to report could itself constitute a violation (even criminal, in certain circumstances), but an unnecessary report may invite unwelcome and unnecessary governmental intervention when private actions alone may amply protect human health and the environment. The regulations pertaining to such reporting, which should be clear and easy to understand in tense circumstances, are anything but lucid. We provide a steady hand and help our clients make the correct choice under these conditions.
Other reports are required primarily to allow the government to collect data and assess progress on a national or regional scale (although the data may also be put to other uses, including enforcement). Thus, clients may be subject to chemical inventory reporting obligations and Form R reporting requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), annual reporting under the CAA, and monthly submittal of discharge monitoring reports, or DMRs, under the CWA.
Information-Gathering by Agencies. U.S.EPA has been granted far-reaching authority to require businesses to collect and submit a great deal of information on a wide variety of subjects. Sometimes the request is issued to provide U.S. EPA to acquire information for a new regulation, applicable to an entire industry sector. But it is also common for the government to issue the request to aid in its enforcement efforts. Compliance with the government’s requests can be time-consuming and costly. We have assisted clients in artfully responding to the government on numerous occasions. And always with ample consideration of how the information will be used, and who might be viewing it.
Particular Substances. Sometimes, certain substances get center stage. PCBs, asbestos and coal ash are a few examples. We provide a broad perspective that comes with years of experience, and recognize that an examination of more than one statute or regulations may be needed. For example, PCBs are regulated chemical substances under TSCA, but they may also be a Superfund hazardous substance, an OSHA hazardous chemical, a DOT hazardous material, or a RCRA hazardous waste. A release of asbestos may implicate the CAA National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPS), but if improperly disposed, could also lead to an action under Superfund. We simplify the requirements to provide clear and crisp solutions.
USTs. Underground storage tanks (USTs) are ubiquitous. Storage of petroleum products and hazardous chemicals in USTs must comply with a host of regulations. Our clients have benefited from our extensive knowledge of this regulatory structure and experience with the Office of the State Fire Marshal of Illinois. For example, we have been called upon to determine whether a tank’s leak detection equipment meets code, worked with the State Fire Marshal on installations, removals, repairs, and abandonment-in-place. We have also assisted clients in the reimbursement of hundreds of thousands of dollars from Illinois’ Underground Storage Tank Fund.
Dry Cleaners. Many dry cleaning facilities have used perchloroethylene (Perc) as the primary cleaning solvent. Perc has been detected in the soil and/or groundwater in the vicinity of these establishments and has impeded the sale of the related property, or has been the subject of enforcement actions. We have assisted clients in seeking coverage by the Illinois Drycleaner Environmental Trust Fund and in obtaining No Further Remediation (NFR) Letters from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
New Areas. New areas of environmental concern are constantly emerging. For example, the existence of hazardous wastes beneath the surface has long been a concern, but in recent years, the issue of vapor intrusion – the migration of sub-surface contaminant-laden gases into buildings – has become the focus of attention. Similarly, the terms, “climate change” and “sustainable development” have been incorporated into our vocabulary. They bear witness to the importance of environmental issues in our daily lives. These concepts will give rise to new conflicts as we seek to advance both the quality of our environment and the health of American business. Thus, as requirements for “green buildings” clash with pre-existing zoning laws, or as a manufacturer’s need to reduce its “carbon footprint” conflicts with a previously-issued permit, the firm will be ready to assist and resolve problems.
Several examples of the firm’s work in the areas described above include the following:
- Assisted multi-national concern analyze and apply hazardous waste regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), resulting in a change in waste disposal practices that saved millions of dollars annually.
- Assisted public transportation company interpret Underground Storage Tank (UST) Regulations and recover hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Underground Storage Tank Fund.
- Represented Fortune 100 food concern in response to governmental inquiry about volatile organic compound emissions from manufacturing facility and assisted in acquisition of favorable permit amendment.
- Advised developer on application of federal, state and local asbestos regulations and avoid potential violations.
- Assisted developer in obtaining No Further Remediation (NFR) Letter, allowing facility to be leased to a wide variety of businesses.