Environmental regulations: love 'em or leave here _ that's the
message businesses are getting from federal and state
It's doubtful you're going to fall in love with environmental
regulations, and you're probably pretty partial to staying around
these parts. Therefore, a nodding acquaintance with the Oklahoma
Department of Environmental Quality could be your ace in the
The department feels your pain. More accurately, Judy Duncan,
director of the Customer Services Division, is anxious to inform
the business community that today's DEQ stands ready to help you
blaze a trail through the confusing and diverging requirements.
The environmental quality department was created by 1993
legislation, to consolidate regulation handled by a number of
state agencies. Duncan came to her present position from the
Oklahoma State Department of Health.
The Customer Services Division can help companies devise
pollution prevention programs, provide information on new
requirements under the federal Clean Air Act and streamline the
process for obtaining water and air quality permits, she said.
"A couple of things we were doing before, we're continuing to
do. One is in the area of pollution prevention," she said.
"Pollution prevention is a concept where you try to examine your
manufacturing process or business process to see if you can alter
it to generate less waste to dispose of."
The customer assistance program offers workshops, training
meetings and environmental audits for businesses. "We have a
legislative mandate where, if we find a violation, unless that
violation is an imminent threat to health or safety we can't tell
the regulatory people about it," Duncan said.
"We can come in and provide assistance in that regard, and
unless we find a really serious violation, you don't have to
worry that we're going to tell the regulatory arm" of the DEQ.
Duncan said small businesses are gradually being included
under requirements of the federal Clean Air Act amendments.
"A good example is dry cleaners _ in the past, they didn't
need air quality permits," she said. "Auto body shops in the past
haven't had to have them, but because of solvents and degreasing
operations, they're probably going to have to.
"We know those things (regulations) exist, and we understand
what steps have to be taken to become part of the program. If
they need technical assistance figuring out the best route on
what to do, we can provide it through the small business
A goal of the Department of Environmental Quality is to have a
single environmental permit to cover air quality discharge, water
quality discharge, solid waste emission _ you name it. This will
be accomplished in stages.
First to be overhauled is the public participation phase of
"In the past, it has been radically different," she said. If a
company had to have a public meeting in connection with an air
quality permit, it would be totally different from the kind of
meeting required for a water quality permit.
"We're holding all the meetings through our customer
assistance program. We can standardize the way the meetings are
held," Duncan said. "We also can provide assistance to the
permitee," such as explaining the reasoning behind public
hearings. "We also can assist groups of citizens who contact the
agency and are concerned about something," she said. …