How confident are you with EPCRA Tier II reporting for lead-acid batteries?

During our last virtual event, Mastering Compliance Reporting for Lead-Acid Batteries, regulatory compliance experts discussed the most critical lead-acid battery compliance issues confronting EHS managers today before answering questions from the audience.

 

Speakers included:

Jennifer Collins, former Pollution Prevention and Compliance Assistance Manager, IDEM
Eugene Simonds, Compliance Program Manager, Encamp

 

 

 

Watch the full webinar on-demand to learn tried-and-tested, compliance expert-approved strategies to bring your facility into compliance with Tier II requirements.

To get you started, here are our top three takeaways:

Proactively Assesses Your Chemical Inventory for Tier II Reporting

A lead acid battery is a rechargeable battery that produces electricity by creating a controlled chemical reaction from submerging lead plates in sulfuric acid.  

When we think of Tier II  reporting, the first thing that pops into our heads are the most hazardous chemicals we have in the largest volumes. However, even though sulfuric acid is designated an Extremely Hazardous Substance (EHS) by the EPA, lead-acid batteries often get overlooked due to their low chemical volume and prevalence within the industry. 

Before bringing new batteries on site, it’s important to remember that because of sulfuric acid’s EHS designation, Tier II reporting thresholds for lead-acid batteries typically are lower. As soon as your facility meets the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ) of 1,000 pounds, you must submit a 302 report to the SERC and LEPC and will be required to fulfill additional emergency planning requirements. 

Reporting deadlines for facilities that bring lead acid batteries that meet threshold requirements depends on the facility’s jurisdiction, and local requirements may be much shorter than the 60-day federal requirement. For example, facilities meeting reporting thresholds in Pennsylvania have just five days to submit this notification. 

Be Thoughtful When Calculating Sulfuric Acid in Lead Acid Batteries

With lead-acid batteries being so prevalent and containing a relatively low volume, calculating the total amount of sulfuric acid each facility has is challenging. The first step is to find the amount of acid in each battery. 

To do that, you must know the battery weight and what percentage of sulfuric acid it contains. You can find this information on the battery’s spec sheet, which provides battery weight and its safety data sheet (SDS), which will have the percentage of sulfuric acid. Now, multiply those two numbers together, and you have an approximate amount of acid inside the battery. 

Approach Lead-acid Battery Damage with Caution

It’s important to know that if you have a damaged battery, a release of 1,000 pounds triggers notification requirements to the SERC, LEPC, and National Response Center. How you report will vary depending on the location of your facility, and there may also be additional reporting requirements. 

However, these reporting requirements only apply to sulfuric acid that leaves your facility. Therefore, if you spill 1,000 pounds of sulfuric acid but capture, clean, and dispose of it properly, there are no EPCRA notification requirements. 

Download our Lead-Acid Batteries Guide: The Ultimate Reporting Kit to learn more about reporting lead-acid batteries as a mixture or component, as well as other expert-approved strategies shared by our experts.

How Encamp Can Help

If you’re like many EHS managers who struggle with how to report lead-acid batteries for Tier II, don’t worry. If you address these three critical mistakes, you will be well on your way towards EPCRA Tier II compliance. 

Encamp on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

“When you start getting into SERCs and LEPCs and their ever-changing requirements (for Tier II reporting), it’s almost impossible to keep up. And if you’re filing Tier II reports in 30 or 40 different states, you’re dealing with 30 or 40 different state systems. You have to figure out a better way to organize that data and information and be able to manage it consistently, repeatedly.” – Denton Bruce, Senior Director of EHS for Bunzl Distribution

Watch the webinar on-demand

Three Takeaways to Make Tier II Reporting Easier  

In An Insider’s Look at Tier II Reporting, Denton Bruce from Bunzl, Bob Johnson, Environmental Affairs Manager for Lennox International, and Marilia Sinigaglia, a Customer Service Manager at Encamp, recapped what their 2021 EPCRA reporting year involved and what made it a success. The popular event got direct interest from close to 250 EHS leaders and people in environmental compliance roles. 

With Bunzl Distribution maintaining more than 200 facilities across the U.S. and Lennox International operating 250 distribution locations in 40 states, our insiders discussed all the Tier II reporting hurdles they faced for RY 2021 and how they are overcoming them. 

Here are the three principal takeaways from the discussion.

Takeaway #1 – Maintain continual compliance throughout the year 

Along with the pandemic, constant changes to regulations and verifying their applicability for each facility have forced many companies to change how they manage EPCRA compliance. 

Critical new and updated regulations for EPCRA reporting over the years

Having expert partners who specialize in compliance issues like these helps EHS leaders manage change within their data management and reporting process. Also helpful is technology that signals regulatory updates via automated notifications and alerts. “Partnering with you guys (Encamp),” said Lennox’s Bob Johnson, “allowed us to shift a lot of the burden to somebody that specializes, or what I call ‘focuses on,’ that part of the data management process” to ensure continual compliance. 

Support like this lets leaders close their EHS books each month instead of waiting until Q1 to prepare for the March 1 Tier II reporting due date. 

Takeaway #2 – Collect and centralize compliance data to increase process control 

“The voracious appetite for data is a challenge,” Johnson said in regard to the compliance data he manages at Lennox. In general, data can range from facility profiles, chemical inventory lists and safety data sheets (SDSs) to regulatory contacts, including SERCs, LEPCs, and local fire departments. Creating a central database, or single source of truth, to manage this information and all sites is critical. These data collection best practices also help.

When you can also combine the portals from various states with a single reporting interface, all the better. “Standardization is key,” said Bunzl’s Bruce. For reporting data, “Encamp allowed us to (implement) standardized repeatable reporting that was very streamlined in a resource constrained environment.”

Takeaway #3 – Simplify how regulatory requirements for Tier II reporting are managed

Especially when businesses add or acquire facilities, regulatory requirements often multiply in state and local level complexity. “I think we added 15 to 20 new facilities,” Johnson said regarding the sites Lennox acquired in 2021. “And obviously some of those were in states that we hadn’t reported in before.”

With a common repository for compliance and regulatory data, EHS teams can build out new facility profiles, upload new site data, verify applicable EPCRA reporting requirements, and even manage how Tier II reporting fees are paid, among other functions. “They (Bunzl and Lennox) were able to send us the data from whatever system they used, and we manipulated that data to talk to our system,” said Marilia Sinigaglia of Encamp. “We led with empathy, and then constant communication,” she added. 

As Johnson said about one of Lennox’s new facilities, “Since we were partnered within Encamp, I didn’t have to dive deep and do a research thesis on reporting in West Virginia.”  

In an Encamp study for Tier II reporting year 2021, 62% of respondents gave a rating of 7 out of 7 when asked whether technology fulfilled their Tier II needs.

A final issue to think about: How long would it take to pull all the information you need for a full environmental compliance audit?

This web event and the EHS insiders who made it possible can help you begin to answer that question. Listen to the full webinar to see how they did it.

Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance 

Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

“A regulator’s goal is to help businesses fully understand and comply with the regulations. They are there to help you understand how to get started and develop your EPCRA compliance programs.”

Madison Roe-Martin
Compliance Program Associate at Encamp

From the webinar, EPCRA Master Class: A Regulator’s Lens on Environmental Compliance

Watch it now on-demand

 

If your company stores, uses, and releases hazardous substances at or above state or federal threshold quantities, a robust EPCRA compliance program is essential to ensure accurate Tier II reporting and 100% environmental compliance. Such a program should be well-structured, detailed, up-to-date, and aligned with EPCRA Sections 302, 311, and 312.

Does your company’s compliance program measure up? Especially with Tier II reports due March 1st, now is a good time to assess it and find out. 

The first step? Watch the interactive EPCRA Master Class webinar. It features Madison Roe-Martin, one of Encamp’s most skilled compliance gurus and a former state Tier II Program Manager for EPCRA, and Julie Ragains, Encamp’s Director of Customer Success & Fulfillment and a 12-year veteran of the EHS industry.

Then, learn all this…

How to create a best-in-class EPCRA compliance program   

“For Tier II, start at the beginning of the year to prepare for next year’s reports. Keep on top of 312 notifications and track changes to regulations to better understand them. Don’t be afraid to ask your SERC.”   – Madison

Webinar poll: How confident are you that your company is in full compliance with EPCRA regulations?

Five of the most common Tier II reporting errors

  1. Companies don’t submit environmental compliance reports even though they should
  2. Chemicals are reported inconsistently across sites/facilities
  3. Chemical inventory is reported incorrectly or inaccurately
  4. Outdated or incorrect contact information
  5. Certain chemicals aren’t reported when they should be

“When an EPCRA program is left to the site level, that’s when things most often get missed for reporting.”   – Julie

Webinar poll: At what level of your organization is Tier II reporting done?

(There are actually five additional common errors. Read about the Top 10 errors and how Encamp helps you avoid them.) 

Some questions from webinar attendees

For the answers, watch the EPCRA Master Class webinar on-demand.

Happy viewing!

Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance 

Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established more than 50 years ago for a reason. And yet we continue to see reports of environmental non-compliance and serious violations of EPA rules on a routine basis, especially for hazardous materials and waste streams. 

But it’s even more troubling to read stories in which companies flagrantly ignore regulatory requirements. For whatever reasons, they choose to take a path of risk and not one of proactive environmental compliance management that could save them a lot of financial pain and PR headaches. 

Three of Many Non-Compliance Cases

The following accounts of environmental non-compliance — and the risk and consequences that come with it — are just three that have hit the newswire halfway through 2021. And trust us, there are many more stories just like these.  

“Ohio industrial company accused of illegally storing hazardous waste”

What a way to start this article from Waste Today magazine. “Arrest warrants have been issued for the operators of an industrial plating company who were accused of illegally storing tens of thousands of pounds of hazardous waste in the company’s rundown building….” (We added the italics for emphasis.)

As reported, the business fell into financial ruin years ago and the site has since been targeted for cleanup by the state and federal EPA. While records show the violations as being linked to the site’s previous operator, they’ve “mostly gone uncorrected for years.” For one example of environmental non-compliance, Ohio EPA investigators found at least 38,000 pounds of hazardous waste, some of which had been at the site since 2016.

Among the full findings identified in the EPA’s April 28, 2021 notice of violation were these other infractions:

When consequences run deeper than just financial penalties

Many of the chemicals and heavy metals found at this facility are on the EPA’s List of Lists and are subject to regulatory requirements for EPCRA, CERCLA, RCRA, and Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act. And even though the violations were linked to the site’s previous operator, this company and its operators should have known they were in violation and risked substantial fines and a lost reputation for their business. 

But is it worth going to jail? No, it isn’t.  

“EPA Uses Emergency Powers to Protect St. Croix Communities and Orders Limetree Bay Refinery to Pause Operations” 

An environmental non-compliance action is pretty serious when EPA officials pull out the agency’s “Emergency Powers.” It’s worse when they announce it in an EPA News Release (which was published in the Washington Post). But it’s really bad when EPA suspends a business’s operations for 60 days, and possibly longer. Yet that’s what EPA did to protect public health.

So what are the alleged violations? According to EPA, since February of 2021, the Limetree Bay refinery experienced “multiple major mishaps resulting in significant air pollutant and oil releases.” Not a single mishap, mind you, but multiple violations over a roughly 3-month period.

According to the EPA release (condensed here): “Under its legal authorities in Clean Air Act Section 303, EPA may take this urgent measure when an entity’s actions are substantially endangering public health, welfare, or the environment. Limetree Bay’s repeated incidents raise significant environmental justice concerns, which are a priority for EPA.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan had this to say in the news release (condensed again): “These repeated incidents have been and remain totally unacceptable. Today, I have ordered the refinery to immediately pause all operations until we can be assured they can operate in accordance with laws that protect public health. EPA will not hesitate to use its authority to enforce the law and protect people from dangerous pollution where they work, live, and play.”

Two strikes: Losing business, and being under continued EPA watch

In April 2021, EPA issued a notice of violation to Limetree Bay for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. No fines were issued at the time, but pursuant to the Clean Air Act, the order to pause operations was to remain in effect for 60 days — unless extended through the United States’ filing of a civil action in court. 

Any business operation shutting down for 60 days — or more — is never good for revenue. In this case, a potential civil action also no doubt puts the business in serious litigation mode and reputational damage control, meaning more costs for legal fees and PR. But a scarier outcome is knowing you’ll forever be under the watchful eye of EPA for further violations and environmental non-compliance.     

“Seafood processor agrees to pay $220,000 penalty for ammonia violations”

So yet another violation of the Clean Air Act and EPCRA, and this time the penalty for environmental non-compliance was a direct hit in the pocketbook. As Cooling Post reported in May 2021, Northern Pelagic Group (NorPel) agreed to pay a $220,000 penalty for alleged violations regarding its ammonia refrigeration system at its New Bedford, Massachusetts, seafood processing facility. 

Specifically, NorPel violated the chemical accident prevention requirements of the federal CAA, as well as the hazardous chemical reporting requirements under EPCRA. EPA also alleged that the company failed to file a risk management plan (RMP) with EPA. RMPs are required for facilities that manage, maintain or produce hazardous chemicals requiring stringent management to ensure public safety. 

EPA further alleged that “the company had not adequately designed, operated, or maintained its refrigeration system,” and that NorPel failed to file its annual EPCRA Tier II chemical inventory report for the 2015 reporting year with state and local emergency response authorities.

Has risk management become marginalized?

This comes from a blog thread on bayt.com about compliance and risk management and if there’s a difference between them. The following response is from Rajesh Dhuri, a senior manager of a communications services company — which obviously isn’t EHS, although his answer is relevant. And thought provoking.

Dhuri’s opinion is that compliance and risk management are interrelated, but not the same. “Compliance management is managing the process to meet all regulatory and legislative requirements,” he says. “Managing risk is not just about assessing and quantifying all the things that could go wrong,” Dhuri adds, “but, perhaps more importantly, about understanding all the things that need to go right for the enterprise to be successful.

“Somehow we have descended into a culture focused on ferreting out all the issues that could contribute to failure to the point where risk management has become marginalized as overhead to the business process, not a contributor to its success.”

Unfortunately and all too often, companies view compliance and risk management through the same misguided lens — as a cost of doing business. 

Let Encamp help

After receiving arrest warrants, paying six-figure fines, and knowing EPA continually has your business on its radar, one would think companies would be more serious about managing the risk of environmental non-compliance. Mitigating risk and non-compliance is one of the reasons we started Encamp

Our mission, after all, is to create a world where good for business equals good for the environment. And we’re pursuing this mission with an end-to-end environmental compliance software platform — the Encamp platform — that enables companies to proactively manage risk related to regulatory reporting. 

With Encamp, our customers are able to aggregate and centralize environmental compliance data for better visibility and easier access. They also streamline workflows for EPCRA 312/Tier II compliance reporting and automate the submissions of report filings and payments to agencies in all 50 states.

Ongoing, we continue to build this premier platform so EHS professionals everywhere can ensure that environmental non-compliance is never an issue.  

Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance 

Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

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