Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manmade chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries since the 1940s. PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals”. They are very persistent in the environment and the human body, where they bioaccumulate in blood and organs over time. Most PFAS exposure comes through ingesting food and water that becomes contaminated with PFAS when it migrates into soil, water, and air during use and/or disposal. Studies show that exposure to PFAS may be linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a number of actions to tackle PFAS contamination, including the development of a PFAS Strategic Roadmap to confront the human health and environmental risks of PFAS. In October 2023, the Agency finalized two new rules to improve reporting on PFAS.
TRI Reporting Requirements
The Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) tracks the management of certain toxic chemicals that may pose a threat to human health and the environment. U.S. facilities in different industry sectors must report annually how much of each chemical is released to the environment and/or managed through recycling, energy recovery, and treatment.
EPA’s new rule designates PFAS as chemicals of special concern for TRI reporting purposes and, correspondingly, eliminates the exemption that allowed facilities to avoid reporting information on PFAS when those chemicals were in small concentrations (i.e., under 100 pounds). However, PFAS are often used at low concentrations in many products. By removing this exemption, covered industry sectors and federal facilities that use any of the 189 TRI-listed PFAS will have to disclose any quantity of PFAS they manage or release into the environment.
By eliminating the de minimus exemption, EPA will receive more comprehensive data on PFAS, including quantities of chemicals released into the environment or managed as waste, to support more informed decision-making.
TSCA Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements
EPA also published a final rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that will require any entity that has manufactured or imported PFAS in any year since 2011 to report information on its uses, production volumes, disposal, exposures, and hazards.
Specifically, these facilities will have 18 months following the effective date of the rule to report the following data to EPA for each PFAS chemical substance or mixture:
- Covered common/trade name, chemical identity, and molecular structure.
- Category(ies) of use.
- Total amount manufactured or processed, amounts for each category of use, and estimates of the respective proposed amounts.
- Descriptions of byproducts resulting from manufacture, processing, use, or disposal.
- Information regarding environmental and health effects.
- Number of individuals exposed and reasonable estimates of the number of individuals who will be exposed in their workplace and the duration of exposure.
- Manner or method of disposal.
This rule is intended to help EPA better characterize the sources and quantities of manufactured PFAS in the U.S. by creating the largest-ever dataset of PFAS manufactured and used in the U.S.
How This Impacts You/What You Need to Do
Federal and state initiatives and regulations to manage PFAS are rapidly growing. KTL does not see the challenges associated with PFAS going away any time soon. If anything, we anticipate more facilities will be directly impacted by mitigation efforts and regulatory action to support EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, such as those outlined above.
It is important for facilities to have a good understanding of PFAS and PFAS-containing chemicals used onsite, as reporting requirements now apply regardless of the quantity used. Implementing a chemical inventory management system that documents and manages PFAS data can make reporting more efficient and help ensure the facility meets these new requirements. Proper usage strategies, a comprehensive environmental management system (EMS), and a forward-thinking Emergency Response Plan will also remain vital tools for companies potentially dealing with PFAS to effectively manage the associated risks.
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is an extremely toxic chemical used in cleaning and furniture care products, degreasers, brake cleaners, and tire repair sealants, amongst other uses. TCE is commonly found at Superfund sites as a contaminant in soil and groundwater. It is known to cause liver cancer, kidney cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as damage to the central nervous system, immune system, reproductive organs, and fetal health. Environmental and human health risks are present with even very small concentrations of TCE.
On October 23, 2023, EPA issued a proposed rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to ban the manufacture, processing, distribution, and use of TCE to prevent soil and groundwater contamination and protect the public from the associated health risks. This proposal aligns with President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot approach to end cancer and advances the Administration’s commitment to environmental justice.
EPA’s proposed TCE ban would phase out the manufacturing, processing, distribution, and use of TCE over the course of one year. For uses where a longer transition timeframe is necessary (e.g., critical Federal Agency uses, battery separators, manufacture of certain refrigerants), EPA is proposing stringent worker protections to reduce exposure while phasing out TCE.
How This Impacts You/What You Need to Do
It is important for facilities to have a good understanding of chemicals used onsite and to start taking action now to phase out any TCE, as the one-year phaseout period will be quick. Facilities should:
- Inventory Chemicals: Take an inventory of onsite chemicals to determine whether the facility manufactures, distributes, and/or uses any TCE. Consult safety data sheets (SDS) for ingredients. TCE can be referred to as trichlor, trike, or tri and may be sold under a variety of trade names. TCE is identified by its Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) Number: 79-01-6.
- Identify Alternatives: For most uses of TCE as a solvent, safer alternatives are already available. EPA’s Safer Choice Program provides a list of solvents (including degreasers) identified as “safer” alternatives. The University of Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) also has an extensive database of safer alternatives to TCE (and other toxic solvents and cleaners) used for degreasing purposes.
- Make the Transition: The best way to prevent TCE from entering the environment is to eliminate its use in facility operations (i.e., source reduction). Follow EPA’s Pollution Prevention (P2) approach to implement cleaning and degreasing modifications, such as switching to aqueous and less toxic cleaning solvents, adopting other mechanical cleaning techniques, or substituting equipment.
- Dispose Correctly: TCE waste can be characterized in a few ways depending on what it is and how it is used (or not used). TCE waste should be properly characterized and managed at a permitted disposal facility—most likely an incinerator.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (modified in 2016 by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act) requires EPA to conduct a risk evaluation to determine whether a chemical substance presents an unreasonable risk to health or the environment under the conditions of use.
On October 19, 2023, EPA proposed a new rule to strengthen its process for conducting these risk evaluations under TSCA. The rule is intended to:
- Ensure EPA’s processes better align with the provisions of the law.
- Support more robust evaluations that account for all risks.
- Provide a foundation for protecting workers and communities from toxic chemicals with more protective rules for workers and communities.
The TSCA inventory is a list of all existing chemical substances manufactured, processed, or imported in the U.S. The current inventory contains 86,718 chemicals, of which 42,242 are active in U.S. commerce. EPA evaluates existing and new chemicals for the inventory:
- Existing chemicals: EPA prioritizes existing chemicals on the list and selects chemicals to determine if the risk is reasonable or unreasonable. If the risk is unreasonable, EPA will impose restrictions to eliminate the risk. The list of ongoing and completed evaluations is available online.
- New chemicals: Any chemical that is not currently on the inventory is considered a “new chemical substance.” Anyone who plans to manufacture or import a new chemical substance for a non-exempt commercial purpose must provide EPA with a Premanufacture Notice (PMN) at least 90 days before initiating the activity. During the notice review period, EPA will review the PMN and determine if the chemical presents unreasonable risk(s) to human health or the environment.
The new proposed rule aims to strengthen EPA’s process for conducting its TSCA chemical risk evaluations. EPA initially finalized a risk evaluation framework rule in 2017; however, it was quickly challenged in Court. The October 2023 proposed rule addresses the Court’s revisions and adds provisions requiring that risk evaluations:
- Consider the disproportionate harms facing overburdened communities, including multiple exposure pathways to the same chemical and combined risks from multiple chemicals.
- Be comprehensive and not exclude conditions of use or exposure pathways.
- Consider risks to workers.
- Use best available science.
- Provide a single determination of whether the chemical presents unreasonable risk, rather than multiple determinations based on individual chemical uses.
- Ensure transparency through updated risk evaluation documents.
- Better align manufacturer-requested risk evaluations with EPA-initiated risk evaluations.
While many of these changes were announced in 2021 and have been incorporated into TSCA risk evaluations over the past two years, they have not been finalized in the Code of Federal Regulations. Doing so will help ensure more certainty regarding the process for conducting TSCA risk evaluations moving forward.
How This Impacts You/What You Need to Do
This rulemaking aligns with Goal 7 of the FY 2022-2026 EPA Strategic Plan to ensure the safety of chemicals for people and the environment. That Plan focuses on strengthening EPA’s ability to successfully implement TSCA with appropriate resources to complete EPA-initiated chemical risk evaluations and risk management actions.
- If you manufacture or import chemicals, determine if the chemical is on the TSCA inventory.
- If you manufacture or import a chemical that is not on the inventory, complete a PMN at least 90 days before initiating the activity.
EPA will conduct a risk evaluation to determine the risk(s) the chemical poses to human health or the environment. Under the proposed rule, these evaluations will be more robust to account for all risks to better protect workers and communities from toxic chemicals.
Audits offer a systematic, objective tool to assess compliance across the workplace and to identify any opportunities for improvement. Audits can also present an opportunity for organizational learning and development, particularly related to non-conformances. In many cases, non-conformances are not a result of intentionally ignoring the requirements; rather, they can often be attributed to not fully understanding compliance requirements.
KTL has identified three areas where our environmental auditors repeatedly identify non-conformances that stem from lack of knowledge or understanding—and what companies need to know to eliminate them.
Do you know your generator status? If a facility does not accurately determine its generator status, it will likely have waste handling non-conformances during an audit.
Generator status is determined by the volume of hazardous waste the facility generates per month and accumulates onsite. There are three categories of generators:
- Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG)
- Small Quantity Generator (SQGs)
- Large Quantity Generator (LQG)
Determining which category a facility falls into is key to understanding which requirements apply and, subsequently, maintaining compliance. How much waste does the facility generate? How much waste does the facility accumulate? What types of risks does this waste present? This information will dictate whether the facility is a VSQG, SQG, or LQG.
Hazardous waste generator status should be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and/or state environmental agency. Generator status can be verified in the EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database. If the information is incorrect, the facility will need to complete Form 8700-12 to ensure generator status is correct, as VSQGs, SQGs, and LQGs have some different requirements due to their potential impacts on the environment. From there, the facility should identify the applicable regulatory requirements and train staff on their responsibilities to avoid non-conformances.
Any facility that generates waste needs to determine what waste is hazardous. In the event of a spill, it is critical that the facility can characterize whether the spill cleanup is hazardous or nonhazardous, as that will dictate the appropriate response. If a waste determination/characterization has been completed, this can typically be determined from the chemical’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS).
Emergency preparedness is another element of compliance when it comes to a spill. Facilities need to make sure supplies are appropriate for any spill that could potentially occur. For example, if a forklift battery leaks, that is an acid spill. The facility spill kit should contain baking soda to neutralize the acid.
EPA regulates a class of waste referred to as universal waste. Universal wastes are hazardous in their composition but can be recycled. Under EPA’s definition, the following are the current universal waste streams:
- Batteries (Li, Ni-Cd, Ag, Hg)
- Mercury-containing equipment (MCE)
- Electric lamps
- Cathode ray tubes (in electronics)
- Pesticides (recalled or farmer-generated)
- Non-empty aerosol cans (in some states)
- Others, as determined by state-specific regulations
EPA regulators have focused on these waste streams as a source of penalty for the past decade. Failure to collect, label, store, and recycle universal waste properly is one of the most frequent citations issued. Although not as complex as the requirements for proper hazardous waste management, universal waste has nuances that a generator must be aware of to properly meet the regulatory requirements.
Universal waste doesn’t “count” against generator status. It does not have to be manifested but generally requires specific labeling language (e.g., universal waste lamp, universal waste battery). Universal waste must also be stored in closed, intact containers. Universal waste can only be kept onsite for one year, so these containers should be dated when the first waste is added as a best practice or a log/schedule should be maintained of dates. A mail-back program for universal waste may be an appropriate consideration for generators of small quantities of universal waste to comply with disposal regulations.
Remedy for Compliance
Many of the non-conformances found in these three areas can be relatively simply remedied—or avoided altogether by making sure facilities educate and train impacted staff on how to:
- Inventory, characterize, and quantify wastes.
- Determine/verify generator status.
- Identify applicable federal and state regulatory requirements based on the above. States may have additional rules provided they are at least as stringent as the federal requirements.
- Implement the appropriate procedures, programs, systems, and training to eliminate non-conformances.
KTL is excited to be joining the 2023 Midwest Environmental Compliance Conference (MECC) in Overland Park, Kansas, September 26-27, 20023 as a featured presenter. MECC takes a fresh, regional approach to the increasingly difficult task of environmental compliance, permitting, enforcement, and other critical environmental issues that impact Midwest facilities and institutions.
KTL’s presentions are part of the workshop’s technical agenda:
What is an energy audit—and why you should do one
September 26, 2023 | 12:30 pm | Coulter Wood, CEM, CPEA, Senior Consultant
Want to reach your sustainability goals, improve your energy efficiency, and save money? Learn what an energy audit is, how it can help you better understand your energy usage and issues, and how you can leverage your audit to identify opportunities to create energy efficiencies and reduce your carbon footprint.
The big secret: you already have the software you need to manage EHS programs
September 27, 2023 | 9:35 am | Joe Tell, Principal
Implementing software to manage EHS compliance sounds expensive, but it doesn’t have to be—not when most companies already have the software they need. See how to leverage the Microsoft Power Platform® to elevate EHS and effectively manage compliance documentation and data.
The most effective way to respond to an emergency is to properly plan for it before it happens. That’s precisely why so many federal, state, and municipal laws and regulations require many facilities to develop and implement some sort of Emergency Response Plan (ERP).
Effective Emergency Response
An ERP is intended to outline the steps an organization needs to take in an emergency—and after—to protect workers’ health and safety, the environment, the surrounding community, and the business itself. The requirements developed by various agencies are important, as they establish the components that must be included in an ERP to comply with regulations and respond effectively.
Most ERPs contain the same basic information. However, it can get complicated when a facility is subject to more than one regulation requiring an ERP, because even though the various regulations share many similarities, they also contain important differences (e.g., command structures, training requirements, equipment needs, operating protocols). Often, facilities end up creating a different ERP to respond to the different regulatory requirements. In an actual emergency, this can create inconsistencies or, worse yet, an implementation nightmare trying to figure out which ERP to follow.
Importance of Integration
The solution lies in integration. For example, consider an integrated management system that allows organizations to align standards, find common management system components (e.g., terminology, policies, objectives, processes, resources), and add measurable and recognizable business value. The same can be done with the various ERPs required within a facility.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in 1996, the U.S. National Response Team (NRT) published initial guidance for consolidating multiple ERPs into one core document. The Integrated Contingency Plan (ICP or One Plan) is a single, unified ERP intended to help organizations comply with the various emergency response requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Coast Guard, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and Department of Interior (DOI). The ICP Guidance does not change any of the existing requirements of the regulations it covers; rather, it provides a format for consolidating, organizing, and presenting the required emergency response information.
While the ICP does not currently incorporate all federal regulations addressing emergency response, it does establish a basic framework for organizations to pull in ERPs for any applicable regulations. And the benefits of doing so are many:
- Streamlined planning process. A single document simplifies the planning, development, and maintenance process. When plans are integrated, it minimizes duplication of effort, eliminates discrepancies and inconsistencies, and helps the organization identify and fill in gaps.
- Improved emergency response. It is much easier—and faster—for emergency responders and employees to navigate one plan rather than multiple separate ones. One plan allows for a single command structure with defined roles rather than potentially conflicting responsibilities. This all allows responders to act quickly and decisively to minimize potential disruption to the organization and public.
- Greater compliance. An integrated ERP provides improved visibility to all parts of the organization’s emergency response and helps reveal gaps that could prove costly and/or dangerous. This is especially important for organizations that must comply with several regulations.
- Potential cost savings. Streamlined and simplified planning reduces the resources required to build the plan. An integrated ERP may also help eliminate regulatory fines and minimize the need for and associated costs of emergency response/cleanup efforts.
Find Your Format
The goal of an integrated ERP is not to create new requirements but to consolidate existing concepts into a single functional plan structure. Regardless of what the plan looks like, it should start with:
- An assessment of the facility’s vulnerabilities to various emergency situations.
- An understanding of the various applicable emergency planning laws and regulations to determine which specific requirements must be incorporated. For example, food emergency response has different implications that must be integrated, particularly when it comes to recovery. A food production facility that is ordered or otherwise required to cease operations during an emergency may not reopen until authorization has been granted by the regulatory authority. Food facilities also have strict guidelines to follow for salvaging, reconditioning, and/or discarding product.
With this understanding, the ERP should then comprise step-by-step guidelines for addressing the most significant emergency situations. The core plan should be straightforward and concise and outline fundamental response procedures. More detailed information can be included in the annex. Most ERPs should include the following basic elements:
- Facility information. Consolidate common elements required in various plans, including site description, statement of purpose, scope, drawings, maps, roster of emergency response personnel, emergency response equipment, key contacts for plan development and maintenance, etc.
- Steps to initiate, conduct, and terminate a response. Outline essential response actions and notification procedures, with references to the annex for more detailed information. Provide concise and specific information that is time-critical in the earliest stages of the response and a framework to guide responders through key steps to deliver an effective response.
- Designated emergency responders. Develop a single command structure for all types of emergencies. Assign qualified, high-level individuals who are familiar with emergency procedures to fill emergency roles. In addition, list the appropriate authorities for specific emergencies, as well as their contact information.
- Evacuation plan/routes and rally points. Clearly mark evacuation routes and identify rally points where employees should meet upon exiting. Do not allow employees to leave designated rally points until it has been documented they have safely left the building.
- Data and information backup technology. Develop provisions for data backup to secondary/off-site systems, as well as alternate options for communications and power.
- Designated plan for communication. Outline who is communicating what, when they are communicating it, and how it is being communicated. This includes internal communication, as well as communication to customers/clients/suppliers/vendors that may be impacted, the media, and the appropriate regulatory authorities.
- Supporting materials. The annex should provide detailed support information based on the procedures outlined in the core plan and required regulatory compliance documentation. Importantly, facilities should create a table that cross-references individual regulatory requirements with the plan to ensure there are no gaps and to demonstrate compliance.
The goal of emergency response planning is to minimize impacts to the environment and workers’ health and safety, as well as disruptions to operations. An integrated ERP has the potential to significantly reduce the number of decisions required to respond in an emergency, eliminate confusion and disagreement regarding roles and responsibilities, and enable a timelier, more coordinated response.
That all being said, an integrated ERP will only be effective if it is thoroughly and consistently communicated to all employees. These best practices will help ensure that the integrated ERP functions not only on paper, but also in practice:
- Periodic training is vital to ensure employees understand the ERP and are fully aware of emergency response procedures. It is especially important in an integrated ERP that first responders are trained to handle all potential emergencies rather than more narrowly trained on response for a single regulation.
- Routine drills significantly improve understanding of the ERP, clarify employee roles, test procedures to ensure they work, and diminish confusion during an emergency.
- Posting an abbreviated version of the ERP throughout the plant provides easy access to all employees if an emergency occurs. This summary version of the ERP should highlight the most vital information for quick response: recognized hazards, high-level emergency procedures, evacuation routes, and key contacts.
Every year on April 22, Earth Day celebrates the birth of the modern environmental movement. The very first Earth Day—spearheaded by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970—led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of new environmental laws, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act.
While the early Earth Days concentrated on enacting legislation to clean up environmental concerns, Earth Day today is largely focused on what we can do to sustain our planet for future generations…
Creating a Green Future
The EARTHDAY.ORG 2023 theme picks up from last year—”Invest in Our Planet”—and is focused on engaging governments, institutions, businesses, and citizens to do their part: everyone accounted for, everyone accountable. According to Kathleen Rogers, President of EARTHDAY.ORG, “Businesses, governments, and civil society are equally responsible for taking action against the climate crisis and lighting the spark to accelerate change towards a green, prosperous, and equitable future.”
Governments around the globe have enacted many significant green policy initiatives, yet nearly every country in the world is not on track to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) neutrality by 2050, according to EARTHDAY.ORG.
The EPA released its most recent EPA Perspective: 5 Ways EPA is Protecting People and the Planet in honor of Earth Day. The Agency cites the following key areas the U.S. government is concentrating on to positively impact our planet:
- Tackling the climate crisis with the urgency it demands, including technology standards for cars and trucks and funding for local governments to cut climate pollution.
- Confronting longstanding environmental injustices and inequities, through investments in EPA’s environmental justice (EJ) initiatives to fund and support programs to reduce pollution and improve public health, particularly in historically underserved communities.
- Improving air quality in neighborhoods across the country with several action to cut harmful air pollution and smog from power plants and industrial facilities.
- Ensuring clean water for all families through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, which invests billions in rebuilding our nation’s water infrastructure, and by proposing the first-ever legal limits for PFAS in drinking water.
- Building a healthier future, from the Clean School Bus Program to accelerate a zero-emission transportation future, to starting new cleanup projects at 22 Superfund sites.
What You Can Do
Governments, businesses, and citizens are all essential in taking action to overcome the climate crisis. When it comes to your organization, EARTHDAY.ORG suggests, “Businesses, inventors, and financial markets must drive value for their institutions and society through green innovation and practices. Like other economic revolutions, the private sector has the power to drive the most significant change, with both the necessary scale and speed.”
Change starts with action. Learn more about how you can be part of Earth Day every day.
Energy monitoring is a key first step in effective energy management, as it allows organizations to understand their energy consumption patterns and identify routine waste in the process. Reviewing utility bills is a basic initial action that can offer significant insights into how an organization consumes energy and what opportunities may exist for immediate and longer-term savings.
Working with a Certified Energy Manager (CEM) to review and analyze a 12-month history of utility data for both electricity and natural gas can help identify peak demand, load profile, taxes, and historic trends in usage. This information can be used, in turn, to calculate savings on efficiency measures and projects based on utility costs. Such opportunities may include the following:
A utility tariff governs how an energy provider (electric or natural gas) charges the customer for their electricity and natural gas usage. Utilities set out the rates, terms, and conditions of service in these tariffs. Electricity tariffs can vary widely by location and provider, hence the importance of reviewing the organization’s current tariff with its energy provider.
After reviewing utility bills and preparing a profile of energy usage, it is possible to compare the current tariff with other available tariffs to determine if there is a more cost-effective way to purchase energy. The utility may conduct these tariff reviews on your behalf; however, a second opinion can often identify savings opportunities to take advantage of the way a tariff may be structured. For example, a portion of the total utility bill is typically determined by actual demand and structure of the tariff. Where demand charges are nearing 50% of the bill, there are often opportunities for cost savings, including:
- Shifting production to take advantage of lower rates in off-peak hours or seasons.
- Staggering startups to reduce instantaneous demand.
If you are paying the full taxes on your electricity and natural gas, your organization may be eligible for a tax exemption depending on where the facility is located. The tax exemption typically applies to energy (gas or electric) that is used to manufacture saleable goods. Tax exemptions often apply to 75% to 99% of the facility’s total utility tax burden.
To receive the exemption, an energy tax study is required to determine how much energy at the facility is used in the manufacture of saleable goods (i.e., any processes that modify the product) versus the energy used for ancillary operation (e.g., warehousing, welfare spaces, lighting). Typically, these studies must be renewed when significant changes occur at the facility to impact load or every three years, whichever is soonest (depending on state-specific rules). The value of the tax emption can vary greatly depending on facility size.
Energy Costs in the Open Market
Energy costs (gas and electric) can be compared against known market rates to determine whether there may be an opportunity for cheaper supply on the open market. The map below shows which states have a deregulated energy market. Any operations in these states may be able to find partnerships with third-party energy suppliers for cost savings.
Utility bills are just a starting point. The more data that can be reviewed and analyzed—and the more detailed it is—the easier it is to identify cost- and energy-saving opportunities within operations.
KTL has experience reviewing utility bills and helping organizations of all sizes identify energy consumption patterns and energy efficiency solutions. Please contact us for assistance in meeting your energy, environmental, and sustainability objectives.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s World Energy Outlook 2022, “The world is in the midst of the first truly global energy crisis, with impacts that will be felt for years to come” due to energy shortfalls and high prices of natural gas and coal—much related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Outlook further states that advanced economies/governments have committed well over $500 billion to protect consumers, but the key takeaway from IEA is clear: “Today’s energy shock is a reminder of the fragility and unsustainability of our current energy system.”
Greater energy efficiency is a key part of the solution—and not just at a federal level. With significant government policies and pledges to achieve a NetZero Economy by 2050, organizations large and small need to be thinking about energy management. What does this mean? KTL Senior Consultant and Certified Energy Manager (CEM) Coulter Wood answers a few questions to offer some insight.
What is energy management?
Energy management involves monitoring and controlling energy consumption across an organization to save energy and, subsequently, save money. Energy management should be part of the overall strategy of a company, with the ultimate objective of reducing the cost of energy (i.e., creating energy efficiencies) without impacting work processes or products.
The energy management process involves four key steps:
- Collect and analyze energy usage data. The more data—and the more detailed it is—the easier it is to identify energy waste within operations. Often, your local utility or energy provider is a good source for this type of data.
- Identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency and optimize energy usage. The easiest and most cost-effective energy-saving opportunities often require little capital investment.
- Implement energy optimization solutions. Gaining cross-functional support is key to realizing a return on investment.
- Track and monitor progress/results through an established “measurement and verification” process. Demonstrate results to garner additional support, adjust solutions, as needed, and repeat.
Why should companies be concerned with energy management?
Sound energy management practices can have many benefits to organizations:
- Reduce costs: The Carbon Trust estimates that most businesses can cut their energy costs by at least 10% (often by 20%) with simple actions that offer a quick return on investment. Operating more efficiently reduces energy consumption, which equates to significant savings on utility bills. This is particularly important as energy costs reach all-time highs.
- Reduce carbon emissions: The equation is simple: the less energy you use, the fewer carbon emissions you produce.
- Reduce risk: Organizations that consume significant amounts of energy are at greater risk of being impacted by energy price increases or supply shortages. When an organization can reduce its demand for energy, it also reduces the risks associated with an energy shortage. Having greater control over energy consumption creates resiliency against energy price fluctuations.
How does energy management relate to sustainability?
On a global level, energy consumption is the major contributor to climate change, making up nearly 60% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Consuming less energy, finding more energy efficient solutions, and/or using alternate renewable energy sources help to reduce energy consumption, reduce carbon emissions, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and reduce the damage being done to the planet. This ties directly to sustainability goals, including carbon neutral incentives, and helps promote a strong environmental, social, and governance (ESG) image.
What about ISO 50001?
As part of the ISO family of management system standards, ISO 50001:2018 focuses on Energy Management Systems as a strategic tool to help organizations better manage their energy use and:
- Improve productivity.
- Reduce environmental impact.
- Enhance corporate reputation.
- Drive down costs.
- Improve competitiveness.
According to ISO, “ISO 50001 is designed to help organizations improve energy performance by making better use of its energy-intensive assets.” Like other ISO standards, ISO 50001 follows the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) process for continual improvement. This involves:
- Developing and implementing an energy policy.
- Setting achievable targets for energy use.
- Designing action plans to reach objectives (e.g., implementing energy-efficient technologies, reducing energy waste, improving current processes to cut energy costs).
- Measuring progress.
How do I get started?
Energy monitoring is a key first step in effective energy management, as it allows organizations to understand their energy consumption patterns and identify routine waste in the process. A basic initial action is to work with a CEM to review and analyze your utility bill (a 12-month history is ideal). This action alone can offer significant insights into how your organization consumes energy and what opportunities may exist for immediate savings.
Once you have a comprehensive understanding of how energy is being consumed, it becomes possible to identify inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement, whether related to behavior (e.g., asking employees to turn off lights every night), technology (e.g., implementing integrated building management systems), or process (e.g., increasing operations during off-peak hours).
KTL has experience reviewing utility bills and helping organizations of all sizes identify energy consumption patterns and energy efficiency solutions. Please contact us for assistance in meeting your energy, environmental, and sustainability objectives.
Every year, we see a number of environmental, health, and safety (EHS) trends rise to the surface that have the potential to impact many industries. Some challenges and opportunities in EHS remain ongoing; some are just gaining traction with impacts yet to be known. Regardless, the start of a new year provides the opportunity to plan for EHS issues and trends on the horizon and prioritize efforts to ensure ongoing compliance.
Here are some of the top EHS trends KTL is keeping watch on in 2023—and some guidance to help you as you set your EHS strategy for the new year.
Resource Constraints and Technology Solutions
EHS personnel are being asked to manage a lot—and often in growing areas that may be outside their education, expertise, and/or experience. Resource constraints—particularly related to staffing—remain a significant concern across industry, and EHS is certainly not immune. Impacts from the “Great Resignation” of November 2021 and beyond continue to leave many companies without the resources needed to effectively manage EHS requirements.
Achieving and maintaining EHS compliance requires great management and expertise to ensure all aspects of a company’s technical compliance have been identified and are being actively handled. KTL has been working with more and more EHS departments to fill these gaps—either with outsourced personnel or compliance efficiency tools—as companies look to recruit EHS staff and meet compliance obligations.
- Develop a relationship with someone you trust to do things in your best interest, understanding that EHS should be a process of continuous improvement. Use them to help you understand what regulations apply. Let them help you prioritize your compliance plan. Use them to do your annual training. Rely on them as a part of your team.
- Employ information technology (IT) solutions to create compliance efficiencies. A well-designed and executed compliance information management system brings IT and management systems together to coordinate, organize, control, analyze, and visualize information in such a way that helps organizations remain in compliance and operate efficiently. A system like this will help provide operational flexibility, generate business improvement, and prepare organizations to address these and other EHS compliance challenges that will continue to surface.
EPA Inspections and Enforcement
EPA intends to continue its enforcement path, holding environmental violators and responsible parties accountable. Significant investments are being made to enforce and ensure compliance with the nation’s environmental laws, including $213 million for civil enforcement efforts, $148 million for compliance monitoring efforts, and $69 million for criminal enforcement efforts. The Agency also has plans to improve inspections by sending 75% of EPA inspection reports to facilities within 70 days of inspection and conducting 55% of annual EPA inspections at facilities that affect communities with potential environmental justice (EJ) concerns (see more on EJ below).
- Design and maintain a safe facility to prevent accidental releases and minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur. Conduct a gap assessment to ensure the required processes and systems are functioning as intended.
- Establish a quick response internal inspection team that can evaluate all areas of risk in your facility to ensure you are in compliance, particularly at the time of inspection.
- Understand the hazards posed by chemicals at the facility and assess the impacts of a potential release. Complete a waste characterization for all hazardous and solid waste streams to make sure you are appropriately managing your universal waste and hazardous waste.
- Check your Emergency Response Plan to ensure it has identified emergency contacts for your facility and that the contacts are current. Coordinate with local emergency responders.
Environmental Justice (EJ)
EPA’s Strategic Plan includes a goal that EJ and civil rights will be embedded into EPA’s programs, policies, and activities to reduce disparities in environmental and public health conditions. This focus on EJ has continued to gain momentum with a slew of additional significant actions taken in 2022 to further elevate EJ priorities and deliver on the Administration’s promises to advance justice and equity when it comes to ensuring clean air and water for all communities; safeguarding and revitalizing communities (i.e., Superfund and RCRA); and ensuring safety of chemicals through civil rights and compliance reviews, audits, and community outreach.
- Take the time to understand the communities where you operate—be informed, be prepared, and be proactive. Establish companywide priorities and goals and commit the appropriate resources to address EJ concerns.
- There are a number of EJ grants, funding, and other technical assistance available. EPA’s new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights is positioned to deliver new grants and technical assistance to meet EJ goals.
Sustainability and Climate Change
The Biden Administration previously committed to a net zero economy by 2050. EPA is focused on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by promulgating rules to reduce pollution from the power sector, setting vehicle emission standards, and partnering with the public and private sectors communities (especially those underserved and disproportionally at risk) to increase energy efficiency in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. In addition, there is $100 million in grants to support efforts to reduce GHG emissions and increase resiliency in the nation’s infrastructure and $35 million to implement the American Innovation in Manufacturing Act to continue phasing out GHGs.
- Conduct a lifecycle analysis (LCA) to identify and quantify the inputs and outputs in a process and use data to assess the potential environmental impacts across the lifecycle.
- Have an energy audit completed of your facilities.
- Get input from employees on what initiatives are important to them by enacting a sustainability committee or adding sustainability to your EHS agenda.
Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention (SCCAP)
EPA proposed on August 31, 2022 to strengthen the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations with the SCCAP proposed rule. The proposed SCCAP amendments include a number of requirements that were originally promulgated by the Obama Administration EPA in 2017 and subsequently rescinded during the Trump Administration in 2019, plus several new requirements considering impacts of climate change, EJ concerns, employee participation, and enhanced community notification. Proposed changes would require RMP-regulated facilities to better consider surrounding communities and the consequences of potential chemical accidents that could have significant impacts on industry requirements going forward.
- Identify/understand/prioritize your compliance risks and develop strategies to minimize them to the extent possible.
- Outline steps to improve performance and safe operations, including defining organizational roles and responsibilities. Plan and conduct required tabletop exercises and coordinate with Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) to ensure your plans work in practice.
- Streamline compliance methods and improve operational efficiencies by implementing IT solutions and compliance management systems that coordinate, organize, control, analyze, and visualize information.
More and more facilities are going to be directly impacted by mitigation efforts and future regulatory action related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS contamination is an extremely complicated issue—and concern is mounting over its impacts and how to regulate these chemicals going forward. EPA has set aside $126 million to increase its understanding of human health and ecological effects of PFAS contamination, restrict its uses, and remediate PFAS that have been released. Over the course of 2022, EPA took several actions to further protect individuals and communities from the health risks posed by these forever chemicals and more is on the way.
- Evaluate your current environmental risk level and develop strategies to minimize risks to the extent possible. Proper usage strategies, a comprehensive environmental management system (EMS), and a forward-thinking Emergency Response Plan will remain vital tools for companies potentially dealing with PFAS to effectively manage the associated risks.
- Work with LEPCs to coordinate emergency response efforts and exercises to keep communities informed and safe.
Set Your Goals for 2023
With these trends toward more regulation, more enforcement, and more focus on EJ and sustainability—but with fewer resources to manage it all—companies need to accurately assess compliance requirements and create a plan for how to meet them. KTL suggests completing the following early in 2023:
- Get senior leadership commitment. It is often clear how an organization prioritizes EHS with little digging. Even with the best EHS personnel, the organization and its EHS system will only be as good as the top leadership and what is important to them.
- Conduct a comprehensive gap assessment to ensure you are meeting the requirements of all applicable EHS regulations. This should be the starting place for understanding your regulatory obligations and current compliance status.
- Perform a comprehensive onsite risk assessment with associated risk minimization planning and plan/conduct annual spill drills to practice emergency response for hazardous chemical incidents.
- Organize your records. Know what records you need. Document your inspections and your training. Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) so people know what to do.
- Create an integrated management system (e.g., ISO 9001/14001/45001) by finding commonalities between the standards and leveraging pieces of each to develop a reliable system that works for your organization. Implement IT solutions to streamline compliance and create business efficiencies.
- Seek third-party oversight. Having external experts periodically look inside your company provides an objective view of what is really going on, helps you to prepare for audits, and allows you to implement corrective/preventive actions that ensure compliance.