June 7, 2019

Regardless of one’s role in an organization, be it Regulatory Compliance Manager, Chief Operating Officer, or an individual serving in several capacities, compliance with environmental regulations is a concept as important as it is complex. Recent changes in federal regulations – along with the abilities of the individual state, county, local district, and municipality to enforce regulations even more stringent than those of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – make it absolutely essential that every member of an organization be involved in the process of regulatory compliance.

Such regulations have become increasingly complex alongside the rise of the age of automation. Upon researching a local city’s requirements for licensing and permits for a variety of items – even those already covered in great detail by the EPA – one can identify over 2,000 different specific levels of licenses and permits in its code of regulation.

Keeping abreast of these changes and compiling all of the necessary information for an ever-increasing load of regulatory compliance reporting is a daunting task. The daily documentation required to ship, process, and store chemicals must be a collaborative effort, aided, no doubt, by software specially designed to organize and record such transactions.

In light of this, it is absolutely critical that companies begin to evaluate their own regulatory protocols. Several recent catastrophic events in the greater Houston area involving containment failures, fires, and at least one fatality will indubitably strengthen environmental regulations from federal, state, and municipal standpoints. Thus, now is the time to assess whether one’s company is prepared for an abnormal event (EPCRA); to review its Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (or discharge permit), and to strengthen its Spill Prevention and Containment and Countermeasures programs.

Although it is foolish to assume readiness for any unplanned event, simple steps such as repeated emergency and evacuation drills are some of the best means by which a corporation may both prepare for an emergency and identify a facility’s vulnerabilities. The United States Marine Corps is world-renowned for its excellence in military operations. The reason for this, according to one of its active-duty riflemen, is the thorough, repeated, and meticulous training for any events that may be faced. Further, a dedicated organization within its ranks is solely focused on “lessons learned,” which are continually used to improve. These same principles can be used to guide excellent regulatory compliance within an organization.

It is vital to remember that every advancement toward progress is important. Small steps such as emergency protocol rehearsals can prove themselves vital in regulatory compliance. Therefore, instead of becoming overwhelmed by the big picture, it is sometimes more important to “eat it like an elephant” – one little piece at a time.