Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Nally Tuesday explained a host of statutory changes his agency is seeking to make regulations clearer to businesses, reduce duplication and expand certain programs.

Nally and Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) testified on the changes proposed in Schaffer’s SB294 in the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

“I’ve had 326 external outreach meetings, and this bill is the culmination of those outreach meetings,” said Nally.

“This legislation institutes some long overdue, common-sense permitting improvements as well as business outreach programs, modifications to remove dual regulations, and simple good government practices,” said Schaffer.

The bill would expand the degree to which businesses can confidentially deal with the Ohio EPA on compliance questions. The agency’s Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention currently can only offer confidentiality to small businesses inquiring about air permits. Schaffer’s bill would allow any business to ask about any permit type. 

“They should have the ability to have that conversation under confidentiality as long as it’s not posing immediate harm,” Nally said

The bill also would create a program for paying fees in lieu of wetland mitigation for impacts to isolated wetlands. Nally said that will give companies a clear idea of the per-acre cost of wetland impacts for business planning purposes.

The bill also would allow the Ohio EPA to renew National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits when the permit holders are in violation of the current permit. Schaffer said the current prohibition on doing so means businesses might continue to operate under old permits with outdated pollution control standards.

Sen. Keith Faber (R-Celina) questioned one provision of the bill that would allow Ohio more freedom to adopt federal rules written under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, noting he’s generally leery of allowing agencies greater power to freely adopt new rules. 

Nally said the inability to keep up with federal changes affects businesses that would like to opt for the state regulatory process rather than the federal process, but can’t because of gaps in the state program.

Other changes proposed in the bill include the following: 

– Allow solid waste landfills to temporarily store low-level radioactive waste;
– Exempt coal combustion waste from solid waste management district generation fees. Nally said the biennial budget bill provided such an exemption for municipal solid waste landfills but overlooked solid waste management districts. The intent, he said, is to encourage the waste to go to existing facilities, rather than have waste generators build their own disposal sites.
– Expand the type of sites and parties than can proceed with corrective actions to remediate sites through the Voluntary Action Program;
– Increase from 2,000 to 5,000 the number of tires a scrap-tire site can have and still be eligible for funding from the Scrap Tire Fund for cleanup;
– Change the fee structure for operator certification testing for drinking water and wastewater operators, in part to enable third parties to administer the test. Nally said current practice is to offer the testing once per year in Columbus, an inconvenience to test takers.
– Changes construction and demolition debris fees to encourage the removal of recyclable debris from the waste stream before disposal and clarify the application of fees to asbestos materials that go to either a construction and demolition debris landfill or a municipal solid waste landfill;
– Update statute of limitations laws to correct an omission made several years ago;
– Update hazardous waste reporting requirements to be biennial rather than annual, consistent with the U.S. EPA’s practice;
– Revise environmental background check requirements;
– Clarify terminology related to the types of hazardous waste permits subject to a compliance history evaluation;
– Eliminate consent-to-service requirements for people transporting solid waste. In response to a question from Sen. Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville), agency legislative liaison Tracy Freeman said the state instituted the paperwork requirement previously to keep track of people transporting solid waste in case they’d later need to be called in for legal proceedings. But she said the agency hasn’t seen a need for that in the 23 years the requirement has been in place;
– Ban co-disposal of secondary aluminum production waste at municipal solid waste landfills, to prevent the harmful chemical reactions that occur during co-disposal;
– Removing some infectious waste oversight procedures to reflect the fact that such wastes are now heavily regulated by federal agencies;
– Make tampering with a public water system a felony.

Nally said the agency is seeking an additional amendment to pursue delegation authority from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the section 404 permitting program under the Clean Water Act. Such a change would allow businesses to seek permitting under both sections 404 and 401 from the state, rather than going to the Corps of Engineers for one and the state for the other.