The traditional approach of obtaining environmental compliance through inspection and enforcement has proven to be an effective tool yet is not a complete solution. There are too many facilities in need of inspection to be reached with existing compliance staffing levels. Facilities receive inadequate exposure to the regulations because of this lack of contact with regulators and because their own resources are also limited. Facilities that may become knowledgeable of the rules often lose staff to turnover, and they are once again left uninformed of the rules that apply to them. Furthermore, the standard “command-and-control” approach to inspection and enforcement has created an enduring attitude of fear and distrust between regulators and the business community.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) Hazardous Waste Coordinator Certification (HWCC) Program, initiated in 2003, is designed to supplement these shortcomings by providing a sustainable forum for educating and certifying generators in the state’s hazardous waste rules. The program requires all of New Hampshire’s larger hazardous waste generators to have on staff, at the facility where the hazardous waste is generated, a Hazardous Waste Coordinator (HWC) who is certified annually. This training and certification is provided directly by the state regulators, delivering timely information and interpretations “from the horse’s mouth” rather than diluted through third-party private consultants. Whereas this training and certification is an annual requirement, it provides NHDES regular interaction with the regulated community and the opportunity to continually provide more in-depth training, as well as address problem areas observed by inspectors, all with minimal NHDES staffing commitments.
Results to Date:
To assess the value of the program, in 2015 NHDES partnered with Dr. Sarah Stafford, Professor of Economics and Director of the Public Policy Program at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Dr. Stafford and her research team designed a project to measure the program’s ability to achieve regulatory compliance and reduce barriers between government and the regulated community. The project used statistical analysis of an online survey of 1,684 former attendees of the HWCC program. From this survey the team found that 15% of attendees reduced their hazardous waste generation enough to reclassify to a less-regulated category. Whereas the ultimate goal in hazardous waste regulation is to reduce the creation of wastes, this statistic is highly encouraging. Additionally, 76 percent of the trainees believe the probability of having a violation decreased after certification, indicating their confidence in the effectiveness of the training. The research further showed that 94 percent of trainees believe the training increased the likelihood they would contact hazardous waste regulators to get any questions answered. A nearly equal number of trainees (91 percent) believe the training also increased the likelihood of seeking compliance help from regulators of other media (e.g., water, air). This statistic illustrates that by creating familiarity with regulators and improving communication, the HWCC Program has a broad impact in promoting compliance in not just hazardous waste management, but also in other programs.
The shift in the relationship between NHDES and the regulated community is further illustrated by attendance records. While roughly 325 facilities are required to have a HWC on-staff, annual program attendance is at 1,025 individuals, and continues to consistently grow at 3 percent per year. Of those, nearly 20 percent of attendees are exempt small generators that pursue certification proactively to prepare for the possibility of one day increasing their generator size. These data suggest that the HWCC Program is helping to remove barriers of silence and fear between business and government, promoting a new paradigm of communication, cooperation, and compliance.
For more information, see: http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/waste/hwcb/hwcs/hwccp/index.htm.