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South Carolina


Project Title: Incorporating Environmental Management into Permit Decisions

Location: South Carolina

State Agency Applicant: South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC)

Robert W. King, Jr., Deputy Commissioner; Environmental Quality Control Administration; SC Department of Health and Environmental Control; 2600 Bull Street, Columbia, SC 29201; Phone: (803) 896-8940; Fax: (803) 896-8941; Email: kingrw@dhec.sc.gov

RCRA Component: The project does not have a significant component related to hazardous waste management and permitting under RCRA.

Other Federal Program: The project is not being executed in cooperation with or funded by another federal program.

Federal Regulatory

Flexibility Required: This project is a study of the relationship between environmental management systems and permitting. It will not require federal regulatory flexibility to implement, however, the issue regarding the need for such flexibility may be raised as part of the study.

Agency Endorsement: The Deputy Commissioner for Environmental Quality Control fully supports the project.



Environmental management systems (EMSs) are recognized by the DHEC through its participation in the South Carolina Environmental Excellence program (SCEEP) and in the implementation of the South Carolina Environmental Innovations Pilot program. The SCEEP is the state's voluntary environmental leadership program. DHEC was involved in its creation six years ago, and continues to support the program, which is administered by the University of South Carolina's Environmental Research and Service unit within the Institute for Public Service and Policy Research. Currently, the program has 23 members of which 15 have EMSs. Of these, 10 have EMSs that are certified under the 14001 International Standards Organization (ISO). Three of the SCEEP facilities are also members of the EPA Performance Track program. Two years ago the South Carolina General Assembly, with DHEC support, enacted legislation modeled after the Wisconsin Environmental Cooperation Pilot program to create a pilot program to test alternative environmental approaches with participating facilities through the use of cooperative agreements. Both the SCEEP and the pilot program recognize facility environmental management systems (EMSs) as criteria for participation. In fact, a participating facility in the Innovations pilot program must already have, or agree to develop and implement, an EMS. In programs like these, DHEC has recognized and encouraged the use of EMSs by a facility. However, while the agency recognizes the value of an EMS in terms of a facility's superior environmental performance, to date it has not considered ways to incorporate facility EMSs into permitting decisions.

Threshold Factors:

Threshold Factor #1. The project activities are directly related to "advancing the state of knowledge" regarding the integration of EMSs into the regulatory framework, specifically, through the permitting process. The knowledge obtained from the project will assist other states and EPA in determining the value of EMS permit integration.

Threshold Factor #2. The project is a cross-media initiative that seeks to not only control pollution but also to explore ways to move beyond compliance through the use of EMSs in the permitting program.

Program Criteria:

Target Priority Environmental Issues. This project is designed to explore the relationship between EMSs and permitting with the goals of (1) improving overall environmental performance by a facility; (2) integrating and potentially streamlining permit requirements based upon an effective EMS; and (3) incorporating EMSs as an incentive for permitting options. The project goals are consistent with the vision outlined in the EPA Innovations Strategy to "integrate environmental management more fully across facilities, programs, and media." The project seeks to promote this vision through a cross-media study of permits at facilities that have an active EMS and are either members of South Carolina's Environmental Excellence program or the EPA National Environmental Performance Track program. The study will focus on two specific objectives: (1) to determine ways in which an effective EMS can impact how specific permit requirements are written; and (2) how an EMS can assist in ensuring consistency in the development, issuance, inspection, interpretation, and potential enforcement of the permit. In achieving these objectives, the project will advance the recommendation in the Innovations Strategy to "support use of effective EMSs in a variety of applications, and expand studies of how EMSs fit into environmental policy as a way to ensure compliance and promote 'beyond compliance' performance." Ultimately, the project will provide recommendations on the integration of EMSs into the permitting decisions. Study results will be evaluated in the context of current permitting processes and whether innovative EMS-based permit requirements can be tested with facilities through the Environmental Innovations Pilot program.

Likely Improvement in Results from Project Implementation. The project will begin with the formation of a cross-media team comprised of permitting, compliance, and enforcement staff representing the major media programs within Environmental Quality Control (EQC). The team will review the permitted activities of facilities that are members of either the SCEEP or the EPA Performance Track program. These facilities typically have air, NPDES or pretreatment, and stormwater permits, and several are hazardous waste generators or have treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) permits. Facilities that have multiple permits across media lines and active EMSs will be asked to participate in the project. At least one facility will be ISO-certified so a comparison can be made between ISO-certified EMSs and other non-ISO EMSs. It is anticipated that the project team will work with at least two facilities. Working with the participating facilities, the project team will:

  1. Engage in EMS training with the facilities to gain a better understanding of the concepts and mechanics of an EMS;
  2. Examine a facility's existing permits and its EMS to determine how an EMS can impact permit requirements in the following ways:
  3. a)  provide incentives in permitting options;
    b) streamline administrative (reporting, recordkeeping, sampling) or other permit requirements;
    c)  improve consistency in how the permits are written, interpreted, and enforced; and
    d)  improve environmental performance and environmental results in maintaining or going beyond compliance.

  4. Determine ways in which specific permit requirements may be addressed, altered, or consolidated through the EMS.
  5. Evaluate the potential to incorporate EMSs into facility permits through the Environmental Innovations pilot program mechanism.

This approach is unique because currently EQC does not "recognize" EMSs in its permit or enforcement programs. This study will help to build on the experience and lessons learned from other states that are further along in using EMSs in their regulatory programs. The study will utilize existing EMS materials that have been developed by EPA, the Multi-State Working Group, ECOS, and other states.

Measuring Improvement and Accountability. The goals for environmental improvement and the measures that will be used to assess how well the project met its goals are:

Goal 1: Improve overall facility environmental performance


Goal 2: Integrate and potentially streamline permit requirements based upon an effective EMS


Goal 3: Incorporate EMSs as an incentive for permitting options


Goal 4: Increase understanding and level of knowledge concerning the relationship between EMSs and permitting programs


The project team will develop the baseline measurements. A matrix of existing permit requirements for participating facilities will be developed indicating discharge and emission limits, reporting and other administrative requirements, and other permit conditions. This will be compared against the facility EMSs to indicate intersects between permit conditions and EMS requirements. Study results will be applied to the matrix to determine improvement in the baseline measurements consistent with the goals and measurements described above.

The study will be conducted over a two-year period. Year 1 will be focused on EMS staff training, and reviewing the facility permits and EMS. Year 2 will be focused on evaluating potential permit revisions and considering whether changes can be incorporated through the Environmental Innovations pilot program. The following is a timeline for the project plan and the commitments for continuously measuring and evaluating the project in meeting its goals and objectives:

Year 1 (late winter 2004 - 2005) 1st Q 2nd Q 3rd Q 4th Q Commitments
Assemble project team X Cross-media staff from major media prog.
Review SCEEP and PT member facilities' EMS and permits/Select facilities for participation X X Facilities with active EMSs and multiple permits
EMS staff training with facilities X Pre/post test evaluations to measure increase in understanding/awareness of EMSs
Conduct study of facility permits and EMSs X X X Evaluate potential environmental improvements/pollutants reduced/pollutant avoidance/administrative savings
Quarterly reports to EPA X X X X

Year 2 (2005 - 2006) 1st Q 2nd Q 3rd Q 4th Q Commitments
Evaluate feasibility of permit changes based on study X X Goal: exploring relationship between EMSs and permitting
Evaluate potential to make changes through the Environmental Innovations Pilot program X X Goals: environmental improvements, administrative efficiency; incentives in permitting options
Quarterly Reports to EPA X X X X
Final report to EPA and assist in 3 rd party evaluation X

The short-term (1-3 years) project results will be an improved understanding of the relationship between EMSs and permitting. This will greatly help EQC in assessing the value of incorporating EMSs into the permitting process. It will also provide EQC with a mechanism to test this approach through specific facility permits. Longer terms results (over 5 years) will be measured by the extent to which the agency formally recognizes (through guidance, policy or regulatory changes) EMSs in the permitting programs.

Transferring Innovation. Project methods and outcomes will be documented through quarterly and final reports to EPA. These reports will also be posted on a project home page on the DHEC web site so that other states may have ready access to them. Opportunities to present the project results at state or federal conferences and meetings will also be explored.

The use of EMSs to enhance regulatory compliance is part of the "next generation" of environmental protection. While the "command and control" approach to environmental regulation will always play a part in regulatory compliance, EMSs will help to achieve greater positive environmental impacts and results. Demonstrating the value and use of EMSs in the permitting process will assist other states that may be interested in taking similar steps.

Through active involvement in the SC Environmental Innovations Pilot program and the SC Environmental Leadership program - where EMSs are not only recognized but also required for participation -- the agency is positioned to take the next step by examining and testing ways in which an EMS can impact how a facility is permitted. Successful completion of the project will not only assist in permitting, but also will open the door for consideration in enforcement, compliance assistance and outreach activities. It will also serve to encourage facilities to adopt EMSs knowing that it may influence or impact the manner in which they are regulated.

DHEC is committed to sharing "lessons learned" with other states and in providing consultation and mentoring to states looking to adopt similar innovations. South Carolina is actively involved in the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) and would envision sharing project results and information with individual states through that organization.


State: South Carolina

Agency: Department of Health and Environmental Control

Project Title: Incorporating Environmental Management into Permit Decisions

<Budgetary Information Withheld by U.S. EPA>

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