Environmental Compliance in Utah

Environmental Regulations

Utah has several environmental regulatory divisions within the Utah DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality). Utah’s environmental regulatory programs must meet Federal EPA laws. And as with most all of the State administrative programs approved by the EPA, UDEQ has enacted additional enforceable environmental quality controls.

Basically, environmental regulations govern air, land and water quality. After review and approval, permits are issued to businesses that will have an impact on environmental quality. Environmental regulations are in place to ensure that commerce is regulated such that environmental degradation is minimized. In brief, a permit allows you to pollute but only to a certain threshold. So that’s the theoretical side. The reality is that the needs of commerce generally take a calculated “front seat” to the needs of the environment. Not that Federal and State laws are bent, but sometimes consequentially violated – such as the Clean Air Act in much of Utah during winter air inversion conditions. We all breathe bad air the result of tailpipe and point source emissions – all of which are regulated to some degree. But the regulatory mechanisms and the actual engineered controls employed are basically trying to catch-up to existing and notably non-compliant air pollution. That being said, let’s now focus discussion on the Utah environmental regulatory agencies that may have an interest in your operations.

UDEQ divisions include water quality, air and waste management. These divisions enforce applicable Utah environmental regulations. Your business may likely have regulatory requirements to meet should you:

Handle hazardous materials at or above specified thresholds;
Produce and handle hazardous waste(s);
Produce and handle universal wastes;
Operate above ground storage tanks (AST’s) and/or underground storage tanks (UST’s);
Produce and emit airborne contaminants;
Discharge pollutants to surface waters and/or ground water.
Other State and/or local regulations may apply. In particular, discharge of pollutants to sewer generally requires a permit from the local sewer district authority. Fire jurisdictions also have regulatory authority when it comes to storage of hazardous material and/or wastes and storage for flammable and/or combustible materials. If your company transports hazardous materials and/or wastes, then other regulatory requirements may also apply.

In general, if you engage in any of the activities listed above, you will be required to obtain a permit and follow permit requirements. Permit conditions usually include recordkeeping, reporting, and integrating permit requirements into your environmental management system administration as well as to your employee training program. Making certain that employees have sufficient familiarity of permit conditions should boost your ability to ensure continued compliance. Of course there are penalties for failing to obtain a permit and/or violating terms of your permitted activities. It is also important to correctly and accurately apply for permit(s).

In order to make informed decisions about your environmental liabilities, you have to understand contributing aspects. For example, while you may use a specific chemical in your process, have you considered the management costs related to disposal of it as a hazardous waste? Sometimes chemical substitution works to not only reduce waste and disposal costs but can even be a less harmful alternative that will present less of a risk to personnel. Ask us to review your operations and assess your environmental exposures. We can help you develop long-term compliance strategies and improve your profitability by ensuring effective management of your environmental regulatory requirements.

Conclusion

Workplace health and safety regulations and environmental regulations exist to protect well-being of workers as well as the environment in which we all live and work. Compliance is a natural cost of doing business. However, violating workplace safety or environmental regulations is not a natural or justifiable business cost. And yet violations of workplace safety and environmental regulations are seemingly commonplace and far too often newsworthy when egregious events occur. The common rationale behind corporate decisions to not comply with regulations is nearly always driven by cost. Some businesses would rather pay a calculated price for non-compliance (read: fines) rather than invest in long-term compliance because it is deemed less expensive. The reality is that sometimes fines cost less than capital investments to enact compliant processes. But this thinking neglects the accumulation of costs over time. Some businesses operate in that realm; where they avoid for a time large investment by continuing to pay regulatory fines that are perhaps thought of as nuisance costs and part of doing business. But this mindset actually reduces business opportunity and viability over time not to mention the possibility of criminal charges and even prison time for managers who knowingly violate regulations. Those who appreciate this aspect of environmental regulations in particular sometimes refer to it as the “be a manager go to jail” clause. There is similar exposure for employers who willfully expose employees to unsafe working conditions. But as business practices have evolved and have incorporated regulatory compliance into a best practices model, supply chain requirements are increasingly dictating the necessity of having effective management systems. For example, many businesses will only engage suppliers and vendors who can demonstrate a good regulatory compliance record and often then also verify certification with one or more EHS management systems. So besides obvious direct financial costs, failing to meet regulatory requirements can and does cancel business opportunities.

In our book, there is no substitute for compliance. Companies must do so regardless the degree of enforcement. That means that your management systems must be geared to naturally seek compliance and that your corporate culture is committed to meeting (or exceeding) occupational health and safety and environmental regulations. We are here to help you succeed by ensuring that you are able to meet regulatory requirements by seamlessly integrating those aspects into your management systems and corporate culture.

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