Ask any EHS or Operations manager where Tier II reporting for EPCRA falls on their list of Favorite Things To Do, and they’ll probably tell you, “It doesn’t.”

Fair enough.

Before I came to Encamp, I was an Environmental and Product Safety Manager, and Tier II reporting was never something I looked forward to either. Why? EPCRA regulations to begin with. I had to know if facilities had to report (or not), then coax facility managers for reporting data and hope they could correctly identify chemicals and calculate quantities.

Then it was populating Tier II forms, by state, validating each report to make sure nothing got overlooked, navigating submission portals (by state, again), and paying all the filing fees. 

For any EHS leader, Tier II reporting for 10 or 12 sites is manageable. Even in multiple states. But hundreds or thousands of sites across the country? Good luck. The problem isn’t just finding time to track down data and do reports. It’s making sure every report is complete and accurate, and doesn’t draw the attention of regulators for missing or incorrect information.

It’s the law

Like it or not for EPCRA compliance, Tier II reporting for hazardous chemicals is the law. There’s no legal option to avoid it or not comply. If you run the risk of non-compliance, the consequences can be severe. Think: financial penalties, shutting down a facility, or long-lasting damage to your company’s reputation. 

It’s true that Encamp’s compliance management software really does simplify the Tier II reporting process. It even automates Tier II submissions for you to portals in all 50 states. But for those of us on the Customer Success and Compliance teams at Encamp, we come from environmental compliance backgrounds and know the pressures of submitting reports on time and with consistent levels of accuracy. Therefore, our aim really is to make Tier II reporting easier for you and keep it from disrupting your life for weeks on end.  

From experience — and with empathies for everyone who currently manages Tier II efforts — here are eight tips (categorized accordingly) that can help you survive the trials of Tier II reporting. 

Avoid common environmental compliance oversights

Tip #1: Make sure you have updated and GHS-compliant Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) prior to reporting season.

This is one of the most common errors we see in Tier II reporting every year. In line with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires that any SDS “must be revised within three months after a chemical manufacturer or employer becomes aware of new information concerning the hazards of a chemical.” 

Therefore per EPCRA regulations, make sure each facility required to report includes an updated SDS that meets GHS requirements. EPCRA further mandates that revised SDSs also be submitted to all agencies that have the original SDS. The sooner you do this, the easier the heavy lifting will be for Tier II preparations later on. 

Two other helpful hints: Keep all SDSs in a single location, and minimize your number of suppliers whenever possible.

Tip #2: Confirm (and report) any short-term or seasonal chemicals onsite for projects, cleaning, temporary work, specialty products or R&D purposes.

Another common oversight is chemical data you wouldn’t normally think to capture. EPCRA Section 312 specifies that a business must account for any chemical present at a facility, for any given time during the year, that’s above the threshold planning quantity (TPQ) for an extremely hazardous substance. While a chemical might be onsite for only a short period of time, if it exceeds a state or federal threshold while at the facility, it must be reported. If you don’t, it’s a violation.

Stay aware of local Tier II reporting requirements 

Tip #3: Know when additional City/County reporting requirements apply in states in which you maintain facilities. 

Stay up to date with SERC and LEPC minutes that are applicable to your sites. (The EPA’s State Tier II Reporting Requirements and Procedures web page is a good starting point.) Also document in detail city/state nuances such as reportable quantities, reportable units of measure, and so on.

Gather Tier II data early

Tip #4: Don’t wait until the end of the year to start collecting compliance data.

For most companies, the Tier II reporting lifecycle largely falls into four segments: Data collection, data validation, data input, and data submissions. Especially for data collection and validation, a good rule of thumb is to have data ready to review the first week of January. 

The list on the right is only an example lifecycle of data-oriented tasks, but it should give you an idea of what we mean by getting started “early.” (Note that we’ve added the months/ranges as a general timeline for when activities could take place.)

Data collection

  • Outreach to sites/facilities (usually between July-November) 
  • Data collection and determining TPQs at each facility (this can include gathering purchasing records and other inventory information, too) 
  • Data collection returned for Tier II preparations (December)

Data validation

  • Initial data validation (December-January)

Data input 

  • Data entry to state reporting (January – February)
  • Data entry reviewed and signed

Data submissions 

  • Admin work completed (March 1 reporting deadline)
  • Inventory management (302, 311, ongoing)

Go digital

Moving from spreadsheets and cutting-pasting information to managing data in digital format is a big jump. And whereas some companies and their EHS teams have made that jump via digital transformation, many others have yet to.  

If you haven’t formally “gone digital” for your Tier II reporting tasks and processes already, you should still digitize compliance documents and EHS records at every opportunity. These can be purchasing records, inventory updates from the plant floor, SDS records, virtually any document tied to EHS Operations, compliance, and reporting. 

Benefit-wise, digitization helps eliminate labor intensive manual work. When data is digitized, it’s efficiently maintained, easily located, and readily accessed — all electronically. Digitization is also key to these final four tips.

Tip #5: Keep site maps readily available, and update them when changes occur at your facility. 

In general, the longstanding practice for facility site maps has been to just print out the map for each facility and clearly indicate the locations of all chemicals. Any changes in a facility’s storage location(s) or other requirements can trigger updates to the map, at which point the map gets printed out again and changes are marked up manually. 

But digitize such maps, and changes can be made (and tracked) electronically — and far more efficiently. Also opposed to printouts in binders, digitized site maps are more readily available and accessible on a laptop or mobile device.

Tip #6: Keep an updated contacts register in a single location. 

Keeping track of contacts information is usually mundane, manual work. So it isn’t surprising how often facility-level emergency contacts are overlooked, not updated, or not properly verified prior to submitting a Tier II report. When this information is maintained electronically, and especially in one place, it’s much easier to originate and update.

Tip #7: Ensure that all Facility Site Contacts have access to an electronic resource on the requirements of Tier II so they can keep you up to date on changes (consistent training).

In order to answer any questions from the SERC, LEPC, or local fire department, the contact person listed for a facility must be knowledgeable both about the chemicals onsite and the resulting Tier II report, its content and its accuracy. (Ok, this is where I make a pitch for Encamp). If you need access to a library of regular EPCRA and Tier II reporting requirement updates, the Encamp platform has the capability to let you verify their applicability for each specific facility. One of my colleagues also does nothing but track regulatory compliance updates in all 50 states, keeping your compliance top of mind. 

Tip #8: Create a single source of truth for reporting and institutional knowledge.

Digital records can be centralized electronically in a single repository and made accessible to those who need the information via data networks, private clouds, or a SaaS-based platform. When EHS teams organize reporting data this way, it becomes seamless — making it easier to share data in a timely manner, minimize human error, conduct QC/QA processes, and generally maintain information year-round. Data becomes more “intelligent” and trusted, and stays ready for reviews as soon as the new calendar year begins.

(Read the Hexion case study to learn how they centralized data and Tier II reporting across their company and regional facilities.)

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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