To receive their Title V permits, many organizations dutifully outline how they monitor their processes and what controls they have in place to manage potential sources of noncompliance. There is a temporary sense of relief when the permit is issued. Those who must file Title V are shown in Table 1.
However, issuing a Title V permit is really only the beginning of a process. That process involves your ability to demonstrate ongoing compliance with the controls outlined in the application process: the conditions of ongoing compliance. You soon realize that effective data management is key to effective compliance. But you also realize that the enormous volumes of data involved threaten to make that task impossibly complex and time-consuming.
In this article, I’ll talk about successful approaches to Title V, focusing on data management and other practices you can put in place to manage clean air compliance.
While I will focus here on Title V, similar practices are necessary to effectively support other corporate compliance activities, including water, waste, health, and safety efforts mandated by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), the Right-To-Know Act, the Toxic Release Inventory, the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, Hazardous and Solid Waste Act, and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program.
Step 1: start at the end
The first step toward Title V is to anticipate your compliance commitments and build a data management plan that supports them. The plan should closely reflect your approach to Compliance Certification Reporting and Deviation Reports (compliance reports). By this, I mean understand which data will be used to determine compliance, the required format of compliance reports, and how the data will be processed into the reports.
Title V did not create new regulatory requirements, but it did create new requirements for recordkeeping and reporting. Obviously, one result has been an enormous increase in data.
For example, a chemical manufacturer could have hundreds of obligations to meet for compliance with Title V. Some of these obligations might generate one or two data points per year while others produce hundreds per hour. All of this is compliance data. A line-by-line affirmative certification of permit conditions and regulatory obligations for a chemical company could require the review of hundreds of thousands of individual associated data points. And even this does not take into account the obligation to complete quality assurance checks on the monitoring and other equipment actually producing the data, all of which is reportable in the certification process.
The sheer volume creates a difficult dilemma for the compliance officer. How can I confidently certify compliance if I can't be confident that I’m even reviewing the right data?
One problem is that the difference between compliant data points and non-compliant data points isn’t necessarily obvious. Trouble spots are the potential deviations — and they may be buried within masses of other data. The solution is to get help filtering and sifting the data, and technology can provide that help.
Step 2: improve transparency
The key to successful compliance is to enable data to move freely within your organization and be acted upon. It’s vital to leverage existing systems such as work order systems, maintenance systems, existing ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or desktop systems. And you’ll need to find a technology solution that fits the size and scale of your operation. But it’s important to understand that technology cannot solve organizational gaps, and a culture of compliance also is critical.
The compliance process is dynamic and cyclical, and successful management is possible only when accountability structures are clear.
As a high-profile program, Title V provides for aggressive EPA or state agency enforcement. A chance violation on a routine, unannounced inspection can lead to much greater attention from regulatory agencies. Because of this, it is vitally important that relevant data and records hold together like a masterpiece. This must be clearly and regularly communicated across your organization, and demonstrated through ongoing testing and internal auditing and assessment procedures. Ultimately, the buck should stop at the facility management level, where there is the authority to enforce consequences and instill best practices.
A commitment to the development and maintenance of institutional knowledge also is very important. With an increasingly multitasked and mobile workforce, and with the growing prospect of retiring Baby Boomers, companies must retain critical compliance-related information.
Step 3: technology — only part of the answer
Employ a method to sift through the immense volumes of data. To solve the needle in a haystack problem of identifying potentially noncompliant data, sophisticated technology can help filter or sift the data. There are many technologies available to support compliance management. The options range in complexity, sophistication, and level of automation from desktop systems and spreadsheets to complex relational databases and enterprise systems.
Whatever path you take, the ultimate goal of applying technology is to eliminate silos of information, promote collaboration and automate, to the extent possible, compliance tasks. The ability to manage external regulatory content and the creation of reports also are key considerations.
However, it is important to remember that technology cannot “do” compliance. Technology allows people to meaningfully evaluate data. Not everything that might appear to be a problem from a database perspective is a problem from a compliance perspective. Technology sifts. People judge. Compliance is a human decision.