What to Do About Climate Change – Our Ideas at ECSI

Our approach to climate change is based on assessment of potential business risks to our clients from inaction.  We believe there are actions that our clients can take to improve their competitive position and reduce their carbon footprint.  These actions are good business practices and make sense regardless of which side of the climate change political debate you are on.

A significant portion of a business’s cost is associated with energy use.  Coincidentally, energy use (carbon emissions from combustion of fossil fuels) is one of the most often sited potential causes of climate change.  Our approach is to focus on the dynamic aspects of our clients’ energy use to help them improve performance.  Improving energy performance provides the following benefits:

  • Long term return on investment 
  • Strategic hedge against future energy cost increases 
  • Credibility as a “Greener” Organization 
  •  Strategic positioning for future potential regulatory changes

We see minimal downside risk to business endeavoring to proactively manage their energy use by:

  • Establishing an effective energy management system (EnMS) 
  • Performing energy reviews 
  • Establishing energy baselines 
  •  Identifying key energy performance indications 
  • Developing energy management action plans

ISO 50001 is an International Standard describing the minimal requirements for a continual improvement based EnMS.  As a voting member on the ISO 50001 technical advisory group TC 242 we monitor developments and participate in international consensus building on these important issues and encourage you to learn more about how an EnMS can be good for your business.

Tips For Environmental Aspect Identifcation

Most organizations embarking on the EMS implementation process greatly underestimate the level of competence needed to do a good job in identifying environmental aspects, impacts and deciding which are significant. It’s sort of like landing an airplane. If you have never done it before the outcome can be a disaster.

The result of inept aspect identification will inevitably be an ineffective EMS. Do yourself and your organizations a favor and get professional help from someone who has done it many times. There are a zillion mediocre EMS consultants that will charge much and deliver little. Do your home work and check their references before you invest in their assistance.

Also, there are serious drawbacks to using a risk based approach to determining which environmental aspects are significant. A better outcome and more effective EMS will be achieved by establishing significance criteria (filters) for aspects such as:

1. Is the aspect regulated?

2. Is there potential for a significant impact from an unplanned release?

3. Are their other interested parties that care about the aspect like neighbors?

4. Is it costing lots of money to manage the aspect?

5. Is the scale or duration of the impact such that we should manage the aspect?

If an aspect is found to meet one of the criteria (gets caught on one of the filters) it should be considered significant or important to the organization and managed by the EMS (controlled, improved or both). If it passes all of the filters it should be considered insignificant or irrelevant to the organizations and ignored by the EMS.

Air Pollution Control Equipment – What ISO 14001 Requires

Operation and maintenance of air pollution control equipment is often a source of the nonconformities we discover while performing both ISO 14001 EMS audits and Environmental Regulatory Compliance audits.

Clause 4.5.1 Monitoring and Measurement of ISO 14001 requires that organizations monitor and measure key characteristics of their environmental performance. An organization’s ability to control air pollution is one of these key performance characteristics, and the effectiveness of the organization’s air pollution control equipment is closely linked to this characteristic. Many of the legal requirements for air pollution control, including National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), also compel the proper operation and maintenance of pollution control devices.

Our audit experience shows that 50 percent or more of the organizations we audit are not as familiar with their air pollution control equipment as they could be, and as a result, are unable to show evidence during an audit that the equipment is, indeed, being operated and maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

A simple example would be a paint booth that uses filters to control the particulate emissions from the painting operations. Booth manufacturers often specify a control efficiency of the booth, which is defined as the percentage of the particulate matter removed by the filters in the boot when the booth is being operated properly. Paint booth manufacturers also specify the types of filters to be used and the range of pressure drop across the filters, to ensure that the required control efficiency (98% as an example) is being achieved. During audits of paint booths, we often find that either the filters are not rated appropriately or the pressure drop across the filters is not being measured or recorded correctly.

A related issue is the ISO requirement (also Clause 4.5.1) that the instruments used to measure performance must be periodically calibrated. We find that pressure drop manometers or Magnehelic gauges are often not on a preventive maintenance schedule for calibration and/or replacement. Including the inspection of the pollution control equipment on a preventive maintenance schedule will help to ensure proper operation and maintenance of the equipment. As a risk management strategy, the ISO 14001 internal audit program should include a review of evidence that the scheduled maintenance has been performed and that the equipment is operating correctly.

If we can assist you in preparing for your ISO 14001 EMS audits and/or your Environmental Regulatory Compliance audits, or if you have any comments, questions, or concerns regarding your air pollution control equipment, please feel free to call us, at 920-648-4134, or e-mail us, at kalehner@envcompsys.com.

ECSI To Meet With New WDNR Senior Management

The newly appointed Secretary of the WDNR Cathy Stepp has made a few changes at the top of the organization.  On March 3, 2011, I will be meeting with Pat Stevens the new Administrator of the Division of Air and Waste (WDNR Org Chart) to explore what these changes might mean to businesses in Wisconsin.  I have known Pat for many years and am particularly interested in the Bureau of Cooperative Environmental Assistance, which is the home of the Green Tier Program.  I am also interested in exploring any new approaches the WDNR is considering to help industry obtain approval on air permit applications or revisions to applications in a timely fashion.   Leave a post here or e-mail me to let me know if you have any issues that you would like me to bring up during this meeting.  Here is some more information about Pat and a link to the WDNR news release

Pat Stevens, Division of Air and Waste.  Stevens, 49, is new to the WDNR. He will oversee Air Management, Waste and Materials Management, Remediation and Redevelopment, and Cooperative Environmental Management (including Green Tier) programs.  Pat brings 17 years of experience with WDNR programs as general counsel for the Wisconsin Builders Association, counsel for the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, and environmental policy director for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.  In these roles, he collaborated with the WDNR and others on the development of a number of WDNR rules. Stevens also served as Assistant Attorney General in North Dakota from 1988-92, working with the Natural Resources and Indian Affairs Division and the Tax Commissioner’s Office.  He holds a B.A. in business management from Arizona State University and a law degree from the University of North Dakota School of Law.

USEPA GHG Emission Reporting Deadline Extended

On March 1, 2011 the USEPA announced its intention to extend this year’s GHG Emission reporting deadline – originally March 31 – and plans to have the final uploading tool (e-GGRT) available this summer, with the data scheduled to be published later this year. This extension would allow EPA to further test the system that reporters will use to submit data, and give industry the opportunity to test the tool, provide feedback and have sufficient time to become familiar with it prior to reporting.

In its news release today the agency indicated it will provide more detail on the intended changes in the coming weeks and will ensure that this reporting extension is in effect before the original reporting deadline of March 31, 2011.