Letters to the Editor

Can't Have It Both Ways
I just read Angela Neville's editorial 'And Justice forAll?,' which deals with the topic of environmental justice (page 6, November-December 2003). There are good points, in her article, pro and con. As a PM provost marshal in the Environmental Branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I see it from every angle. Her statement that says the agency may do more harm than good is right. With the federal government, no matter how hard we try, how good of an idea we have and how much we think that idea is good for all, it doesn't always work out that way in the end. Not every solution is right for everyone.

The one thing that the article does not state is that the placement of landfill areas bought and developed in the last decade and industrial facilities, whether municipal or privately owned, is predominantly driven by the cost of the land. The more 'economically advantaged' land is usually in or close to the type of areas suggested in this article. The fact is that you can't have it both ways -- cheap land and big money jobs. It's always one or the other, but not both. My thought is that it has nothing at all to do with the 'people' or 'racial justice' -- just the price of the land. No matter how much money is spent on upward development of those areas, it seems to me, that they always revert to the way they were.

Good article. Thanks.

Marshall J. Greene
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Executive Forecast Less Than 20/20
I enjoyed the cover story '2004 Executive Forecast' (page 20, January 2004), which I found thought provoking. I do have one comment on 'The 'Spell Check' for Title V' portion of the article that was written by Lawrence Goldenhersh, JD. While I agree that minimizing the recopying of data is important in eliminating errors, MS-Word's spell check function is not the best example of how to avoid errors. I have seen many errors despite spell check -- the use of the correctly spelled wrong word. This kind of error is much more important because it may change the entire meaning of a statement, not simply be an embarrassment. Nothing takes the place of carefully editing and checking despite automated programs of any kind. Reliance on an Internet-based program of any kind lessens the user's ability to understand how the application works and when it is likely to make errors. As companies and regulatory agencies continue to experience pressure to cut costs, I suspect we will probably see more use of automated programs and Internet-based applications by inexperienced staff who do not recognize when the serious errors are occurring.

Peter K. Scheffler, AICP
NEPA Administration
Tennessee Valley Authority
Knoxville, Tenn.

Our Readers' Feedback about Environmental Management Systems

Dear Mr. MacLean,

Hooray!!!!! Hats off to you for speaking so firmly and brutally in your 'Manager's Notebook' column about environmental management systems (page 12, February 2004). I turned against 'standards' in 1997 after hearing Amory Luvins in a lunch talk. His basic idea: we need radical innovation and huge efficiency increases to even approach sustainability. The false focus on 'systems standards' only reinforces inefficient, non-performing practices, taking us away from a sustainability vision. It is a delusion that interferes with the marketplace in a negative way. He also commented that ISO Industry Standards Organization headquarters is located in an uncharming place in Switzerland where unemployed PhDs can go as a last-ditch effort to get a job. There is scam written all over it.

Yes, EMSs environmental management systems offered some job protection for environmental, health and safety consultants and corporate staffs. And it probably cleans up some bad clerical practices. But it?s a pasta solution in an Atkins world. Performance should only be rewarded with certificates, etc. Even the government (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) seems to have gotten that right with its recognition programs.

Name Withheld by Request

Dear Mr. MacLean,

I enjoyed reading your column about environmental management systems. On one crucial point, however, I think it is important to remember that the environmental management system standard (ISO 14001) was, after some lengthy discussion, neither intended nor written to be a performance standard. That is and continues to be the thorny distinction. Mistaking that leads to the wrong prognosis. Not coincidentally, the "criticisms" of Riva Krut were that she (as well as many other participants and observers of the standards-writing effort) insisted that the international EMS ought to be performance-based, and then proceeded to attack the document because it was not. No one, to my recollection, ever suggested or tried to argue that Riva was wrong in her evaluation -- that certification to the standard by itself would not ensure improved performance or legal compliance. This extremely important point is always lost in discussions about the subject.

Current thinking, little changed since 1997 but supported by more evidence, is that ISO 14001 is an excellent process standard that enables organizations to address their environmental aspects in a systematic way and to improve their environmental profile, if that is what they wish to do.

The elephant in the closet at The Auditing Roundtable conference, in my opinion, was and continues to be the failure of the certification auditors assembled there to address serious conflicts of interest, perceived and real, between consulting with firms on EMS and independently certifying them to 14001.

William D'Alessandro, Executive Editor
Victor House News Co.
Amherst, N.H.

Authors Response:

You are absolutely correct. Consultants have sold these systems on the promise that they will improve environmental health and safety EHS performance and business value, far beyond what might be expected from a conformance-based system. Even a conformance-based system can deliver performance, but that is not necessarily the way that these systems are being implemented in practice, especially in companies where certification is the primary objective.

Kudos for NSR Reforms
I was surprised when reading Angela Neville's editorial "The Green Road to the White House" (page 6, January 2004) at the obvious promotion of the League of Conservation Voters, as well as all the Democratic presidential candidates. Rather than rehash the same rhetoric I can get from my local newspapers (and they write out of ignorance of environmental laws and matters), your magazine has an excellent forum for speaking the truth about environmental legislation. For example, contrary to what former presidential candidate Howard Dean was quoted as saying, the New Source Review (NSR) rule under the Clean Air Act is not being revised; instead the president is requiring companies and agencies to go back to the law and regulations there under, and not continue with the more restrictive, but greater pollution risk, interpretation. If companies can replace a less efficient and more polluting piece of equipment with equipment that saves energy and is less polluting, but has to follow the more burdensome interpretation of NSR (which was not the original intent), then they will postpone such change outs until the costs to do so is equivalent to the costs of taking the restrictive role or until existing permits for the equipment run out. Is the environment or energy well served by that?

I see your editorial as adding to the myth of the lax environmental concern by the current president. The facts simply do not bear that out.

As an environmental professional (for more than 25 years) I have seen the change from compliance with the regulations, to above and beyond (which is good on a voluntary basis), to one that requires industry to bow to special interest groups on the environment which, for the most part, have two agendas -- one is to raise more money for their organizations (as they rarely put money where their supposed interests are) and the other is to continue the myth that we (the United States and big industry) are the bad guys and are the ones who are destroying this planet. As you can see, I don't believe the agenda of many environmental groups is focused on the environment, but use they environment as a means to their end.

Ava Anders, President
Guardian Safety and Environmental Co.

Editor's Response

During President Bush's term in office, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revised the NSR regulations twice. At the end of 2001, EPA adopted the first revision, which contained several changes including, but not limited to, plant-wide applicability limits, a clean unit exclusion and a past actual to projected future actual applicability methodology for determining when NSR applies. On Dec. 26, 2003, EPA enacted the second part of the NSR reform effort pertaining to the "routine maintenance" rule. NSR regulations require that any major modification at a major source to be subject to NSR review. However, EPA excludes from NSR those activities described as "routine maintenance, repair or replacement (RMRR)." The new rule redefines what constitutes RMRR. Proponents of the NSR reforms assert that the new regulations provide more clarity and precision than the prior NSR rules, which in turn promote better compliance by the regulated community. Critics of the NSR revisions argue that they are a relaxation of NSR requirements that were previously in effect.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2004 issue of Environmental Protection.

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