Massachusetts Contingency Plan – Requirements for Chemical Releases to the Air Reply

As we are more than half-way through 2010, it is a good time to review requirements relating to chemical releases to the air from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) perspective.  As opposed to releases to soil or water, reporting of releases to air is often unclear or overlooked.  This is typically because, due to the nature of an air release, the highest priority becomes coordinating and conducting the necessary rapid remedial response. 

Most chemical releases to the air require MassDEP notification as soon as possible, but not more than 2 hours after obtaining knowledge that the release or threat of release meets one or more of the following:

  • A sudden, continuous or intermittent release or a threat of release to the environment of a hazardous material when:
    • the quantity of the release is or is likely to be equal to or greater than the applicable Reportable Quantity, and
    • it is likely that the release occurred within any period of 24 consecutive hours or less
  • A threat of release to the environment of a hazardous material when:
    • a release or threat of release of a hazardous material, in any quantity or concentration, that poses or could pose an Imminent Hazard
  • A release to the environment which results in the presence of hazardous material vapors within buildings, structures, or underground utility conduits at a concentration equal to or greater than 10% of the Lower Explosive Limit
  • A release to the environment of reactive or explosive hazardous material which threatens human health or safety
  • A release to a roadway that endangers public safety
  • A release to the environment that poses a significant risk to human health when present for even a short period of time
  • A release to the environment which produces readily apparent effects to human health, including respiratory distress or dermal irritation.

The MCP does allow for a delay in notification if one of the following extenuating circumstances can be established by a preponderance of evidence in which case notification must be made as soon as possible:

  • A lack of reasonably-available communication equipment at the site of the release or threat of release
  • A need to take actions prior to notification in order to mitigate or prevent an Imminent Hazard and/or threat to public safety, and/or
  • physical injury to the person responsible for notifying caused by or associated with the release or threat of release, when the injury reasonably prevents that person from notifying

In recent years, the MassDEP has been placing a priority on issuing penalties for violations for failure to notify in a timely manner.  The MassDEP does have a provision for retracting a release notification within 60 days if it is determined that the released amount is below the applicable MassDEP Reportable Quantity.  Therefore, in order to avoid a violation, it is better to report a release of unknown quantity than delay notification until the released quantity is confirmed.

For more information please call Dawn Horter (508) 970-0033 ext. 118 or email

Separating Energy Management from Environmental Management 1

Voting on a draft Energy Management System (ISO/DIS 5001) came to an end on August 26, 2010. The project committee (ISO/PC 242) will seek to resolve comments and issue the final standard by mid-2011. Companies will be able to seek certification to this standard or use it to self-declare their energy management system. It is interesting to note that this energy management system will NOT be part of the widely used ISO 14000 (EMS) series. The separation of this management system standard was supported by ANSI and Georgia Tech. They teamed up in the past to write ANSI MSE 2000 – the predecessor to ISO 50001. More…

Sustainability as a Regulatory Requirement Reply

Sustainability developed initially as a voluntary activity.  Some companies have even referred to their sustainability or corporate responsibility efforts as, “doing well by doing good!” however, there are some changes in the works that would move at least parts of sustainability into a company’s regulatory compliance program.  Some of your customers may be demanding that you have a formal sustainability program.  Walmart is a good example of a company who has an initiative that many retail customers are following.  It consists of a number of required sustainability elements. Walmart enforces these requirements by training and sending out a cadre of auditors to make sure that the requirements are being adhered to. 

The United States Government has also notified 600,000 government contractors that they have to adhere to the greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements articulated in the Presidential Executive Order #13514. If these contractors do not begin making progress against these established goals, they could lose their contracts.

If your firm is publicly traded, or you work for a customer that is publicly traded, there is growing pressure from investors to have sustainability programs implemented throughout a supply chain.  Investors are organizing in an effort to share information and keep pressure on their targets.  One such group, Investor Network on Climate Risk, has supported a large number of stockholder proxies at annual meetings this year.  These groups have websites with best practices and toolkits to help investors be more effective at demanding sustainability throughout a supply chain.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and other watchdog government groups are making sure that companies are properly disclosing their risks associated with climate change and other environmental, social and economic issues.  Investor groups have been relentless in making sure that their concerns are addressed in the disclosure process, such as Form 10K reports.

Corporate Responsibility Magazine reported on the “100 Worst Corporate Citizens.” As transparency is considered the holy grail of sustainability, they were looking for companies that had little to no sustainability information on their websites.  There are also demands for accountability – setting goals and targets followed by reporting on the progress being made to attain these goals.  It is amazing just how much information on a company’s sustainability is being posted on the Internet these days. This makes it easier to conduct valid benchmarking unless, of course, the data is not accurate.

Not so Fast! Phased Implementation of ISO 14001 Reply

Many small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been reluctant to use an environmental management system (EMS) such as ISO 14001.  Even though the EMS has been specifically designed to work in any size operation, it appears to be overwhelming in scope for a smaller firm.  To make an EMS more palatable, ISO plans to issue a new guidance document to help smaller companies create a phased development, implementation, maintenance and implementation of an EMS.  The final standard is expected to be issued in September, 2010.  This new standard, ISO 14005, has been in the works since 2006. 

The issuance of this guidance is not without some controversy, however. NORMAPME, a European organization that is exclusively devoted to the interests of small and medium-sized businesses, is disappointed with the current draft of ISO 14005.  This organization believes that the document is still too complex and difficult to understand for SME’s. They state that the standard focuses more on the concept of a phased approach to EMS rather than on practical guidelines for SMEs.  In their mind, it is unclear whether the standard is a stand-alone document or a guideline to help companies implement  ISO 14001. 

Maybe this is not a fatal flaw. After all, the standard setting process is one of compromise and voting.   NORMAPME and the European Commission could issue guidance for the use of the document much like ISO 14004 offers guidance for the use of ISO 14001. 

The elements of ISO 14001 should be amenable to the proper operation of an enterprise of any size if implemented with an experienced facilitator.  The ISO 14001 requirements simply represent the elements of a sound business.  Implementation guidance can be useful in providing a scope for the facilitator to use when helping the SME implement an EMS.

With large customers issuing mandates for sustainability to all companies in their supply chains, it is going to be very important that SMEs are able to internalize these requirements in a management system that will help them make these mandates part of the way they run their business.  The customers will be auditing the implementation of these sustainability initiatives.  Having an EMS with ISO 14005 should help to provide the objective evidence that these auditors will seek.

There is a need to encourage the use of an EMS or SMS in SMEs.  The SMEs that adopt these management systems will reap the benefits of increased business from their customers that are adopting sustainability programs.