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Merck & Co., Inc.

Letter from Carol Wampler to Robin Moran

P.O. Box 412,
Richmond, VA 23218-0412,
Fax 804/780-3853

May 14, 1997

By Telecopy & Priority Mail

Ms. Robin Moran
U.S. EPA - Region III
841 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107-4431

Dear Ms. Moran:

The following comments are submitted by the Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA) on the proposed site-specific rule and Final Project Agreement (FPA) for Merck & Co., Inc.'s Stonewall Plant, which was published in the Federal Register on March 31, 1997 (62 FR 15304).

VMA is a trade association representing over 500 members with thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Many of our members hold major and minor New Source Review (NSR) permits, which are issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia under the Clean Air Act, and our members are vitally interested in meaningful regulatory reform that provides opportunities for increasing operating flexibility, reducing paperwork and other administrative processes while protecting the environment.

VMA commends EPA for its Project XL initiative. It allows regulated entities to propose new and better approaches to attain superior environmental results. Manufacturers represent a significant and meaningful source of ideas resulting form operating experience under the current regulatory system. We strongly support the concept of regulatory reinvention and the results-oriented approach which Project XL encourages.

Merck's project is particularly strong with regard to the three key elements of the XL concept, i.e., superior environmental performance, regulatory flexibility, and stakeholder involvement. We understand that the significant reductions in emissions resulting from the voluntary conversion of Merck's coal-burning powerhouse to natural gas and the commitment to a site-wide cap on total criteria pollutant emissions set at a level below recent actuals will combine to assure environmental benefits greater than those otherwise required by the current regulatory system. The incentives provided by the emissions cap and the tiered monitoring, record keeping, and reporting requirements should provide ongoing assurance that actual emissions will continue to be minimized.

The focus of the project on accountability for actual emissions and compliance with the cap versus the heavy process emphasis of the current air regulatory system is, to us, a significant step forward. Elimination of the prior approval requirements of the current NSR system will increase operating flexibility and the ability to respond to rapidly-changing business demands without compromising environmental protection. EPA's openness to this innovative concept is encouraging, and we urge you to advance this project to the implementation stage where the value of this increased flexibility can be clearly demonstrated.

EPA has specifically requested comment on the issue of stakeholder involvement in this project. We believe that the stakeholder process employed in the development of the Merck project represents a unique effort to engage those parties with a direct sake in the outcome. We understand that local community interests, in particular, are afforded an unprecedented opportunity to participate in and influence the direction of the project development. The ongoing role during project implementation which is provided by the proposed permit assures that this opportunity will continue as performance is evaluated in the future. The approach developed by the project stakeholders, where a team of community representatives is led by a local government official, provides an appropriate measure of accountability and stability in the process. Local government must represent the whole of its constituency and act in the beset interests of all of its citizens. Individuals representing only their own interests, on the other hand, may adopt extreme positions which are not truly representative of community sentiment. When compared to the role for community interests provided by the current regulatory system, this project goes well beyond those provisions. We encourage EPA to carefully evaluate the operation of the process for ongoing stakeholder involvement provided in the proposed permit before it considers other alternatives.

In summary, we support the promulgation of the site-specific rule as proposed to enable the issuance of the proposed permit and the demonstration that a simpler, results-printed form of regulation can achieve superior environmental performance while providing increased operating flexibility and certainty. Thank you for this opportunity to submit comments on behalf of VMA. We appreciate your consideration of our views on this important subject.

Very truly yours,


Carol C. Wampler
Vice President/General Counsel

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