EPA Rules Give Manufacturers Headaches

Article excerpt

It carries the innocent-sounding acronymn SARA, but what "it" represents is a new set of rules causing regulatory headaches for manufacturers across the country.

Those affected industries are gearing up for a July 1 reporting deadline, when - if they meet three federal conditions - they will have to inform local, state, and federal authorities exactly what toxic chemicals they handle, how much they have and a host of other facts relating to the often deadly materials.

The new reporting regulations are causing concern among both small and large companies, concerns that include:

- Ambiguity in the rules.

- Hesitation from small business owners who perhaps can least afford to install costly equipment or hire a high-priced consultant to maintain compliance.

- Additional costs.

- Concerns that it will take two chemical engineers working 200 man-hours each to do the reporting for the average oil refinery.

SARA stands for the "Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986" and Section 313 of Title III of the legislation is the section causing local companies, such as Kerr-McGee Corp., to devote more time and manpower to control toxic substances.

Congress passed the amending legislation in 1986, intending to clear up discrepancies found in, and to extend, the original Superfund legislation of 1980. Superfund is known technically as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.

The 1986 revisions and amendments include a section known as the "Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act." These are the regulations, corporate compliance officers complain, that will cost their companies thousands, if not millions of dollars for allowing the public access to their toxic chemical information.

These are also the regulations that were the focus of a seminar in Oklahoma City Wednesday given by officials from the Environmental Protection Agency's Region VI headquarters in Dallas.

Kerr-McGee Corp. of Oklahoma City hosted the seminar and several agencies across Oklahoma and the rest of the country are sponsoring similar gatherings to allow EPA officials a chance to explain the law's impact before the July 1 deadline.

The EPA is taking money budgeted for other agency needs or drawn from excess funding in other programs to put on a massive "outreach" campaign in order for industries to be aware of new obligations.

The new regulations force certain companies to report annually to authorities, the various amounts and classes of chemicals they either manufacture, use in some process or produce as a by-product.

Those companies that have to report must meet the following criteria:

- Have 10 or more full-time employees.

- Fall into Standard Industrial Code categories 20 through 39 (that cover a broad range of manufacturing processes including the publication of this newspaper).

- And manufacture, process, or use the designated chemicals in amounts greater than specified "threshold quantities."

The threshold figures also have changed under the new regulations, with 1987's threshold equaling 75,000-pounds for manufacturers.

The line drops to 50,000-pounds for 1988 and drops further to 25,000 pounds for 1989. Following that the threshold drops to 10,000 pounds where it will remain into the 1990s.

Dr. Edwin T. Still, Kerr-McGee's vice president of Environmental and Health Management, said his company's experience with past rules and its response to the new regulations means "that we've learned more about EPA than we ever wanted to know. …