EPA's route to regulatory reform
Project XL is the EPA's regulatory reform effort. It is designed to enable regulated companies to propose projects which meet specific criteria to enable better environmental performance that current regulations make difficult. This avenue is one possible strategy for developing more useful environmental regulations for laboratories.
One effort to apply Project XL to laboratory RCRA issues is underway in EPA Region 1 (New England), managed by the Campus Consortium for Environmental Excellence. This effort has gone through several stages since it began in the Fall of 1997. The original proposal, developed in the Spring of 1998 involved both a environmental management plan and waste treatment portion. As the project evolved, the treatment portion was dropped while the environmental management plan portion has proceeded beyond the draft rule making stage to a September 28, 1999 Federal Register Notice containing the final rule.
If you want to review the Federal Register Notice on line, the HTML version is the easiest to use. If you want to print out this document, I suggest you down load the PDF version of the Federal Register Notice. In addition, the Final Project Agreement, (which describes the complete agreement between the EPA and the schools, which extends beyond the site-specific rule) and the Response to Comments, is available in PDF format. Note that the Response to Comments is contained within the Federal Register Notice, and that the Rule itself is contained within the Final Project Agreement. So mix and match as you like.
More documents, including the comments the EPA recieved on the draft rule are available in the Federal Rule docket at http://yosemite.epa.gov/xl/xl_home.nsf/all/nelabs.html
Goals of the Lab XL Project
From the campus Environmental Health & Safety perspective, there are three goalsto be achieved by the Lab XL project
1) Create common regulations across the US to the extent possible, in order to create more consistent EHS programs between institutions This is important because individuals in the academic and laboratory community routinely move from institution to institution without regard for jurisdictional boundaries.
2) Enable dovetailing of occupational health and environmental programs for laboratories. This makes both programs more effective. This is particularly important in laboratories because the same individuals are responsible for managing both safety issues and environmental issues in laboratories, as opposed to industrial setting, where the size of the process requires more specialized professionals in different parts of the process.
3) Clear up gray areas of regulations in laboratories in order to minimize compliance problems and enforcement actions Enforcement actions delivered to an institution are difficult to pin on a particular laboratory or individal, so the deterence effect is minimal.
Performance standards are regulations which specify the goals which management systems have to reach, rather than the method of reaching them.
Performance-based standards would allow laboratories to reach defined regulatory goals by using methods that are more appropriate for their facilities. These standards, which may take a year or so to develop, could eventually replace many of the prescriptive command-and-control regulatory interpretations that many in the lab community find excessive.
Performance-based standards have proven to be very efficient in allocating compliance resources to maximize the benefit to the environment. They appear to suit laboratories especially well because of the variety and variability of laboratory activities.
Implementing these Concepts
The concepts are currently being developed through documents being written at the three schools. Watch this space for the opportunity to review them when they are finalized this spring.
Measuring the Results
A variety of projects can be designed to get at the EPIs envisioned in this XL model:
- Development of alternatives to current hazardous materials use
Develop "Hazmat Budgets" (inventories of incoming and outgoing materials) for:
Specific types of laboratories
- teaching labs
- research labs
- service labs
- through a central receiving process to match central disposal
Measuring hazmat awareness:
- students (focus on upper class and graduate students?)
- faculty / staff
- high schools
- Development of a chemical storage risk assessment protocol