MFA’s Environmental and Engineering Industry Predictions for 2019

Author: Alistaire Clary, PE Published: January 4, 2019

As the new year begins, we asked four of our colleagues at MFA to share their thoughts on the future of the environmental and engineering industry and the important issues our clients are facing. Here are their predictions for 2019—we hope they provide insights that help you prepare for any upcoming challenges in your work this year.

Chemical Safety Regulations by Bill Beadie, CIH, Principal Industrial Hygienist

Companies that use large quantities of highly hazardous materials have been subjected to a confusing and uncertain regulatory landscape during the last two years, and I expect that trend to continue into 2019. For example, in January 2017 during the final days of the Obama administration, the EPA published amendments to the Risk Management Plan rule. However, the EPA has fought to rescind and repeal significant portions of the rule, despite recent court decisions requiring the implementation of the 2017 amendments.

On December 3, 2018, the EPA published a final rule in the Federal Register to implement the 2017 amendments, and simultaneously restated its commitment to revising and repealing those rules. Although we understand the need for our clients to stay informed about the changing regulatory landscape, we encourage companies to primarily focus on having a safe chemical process, which should maintain compliance regardless of the regulatory details.

Air Quality Permitting by Chad Darby, Principal Air Quality Consultant

2019 will be a dynamic year for air quality consulting in the Pacific NW. Both Washington and Oregon are moving forward with aspects of greenhouse gas carbon taxes or trading systems. It will be interesting to see how the industrial landscape is altered and adapts to these potential new programs.

While Washington has an air toxics assessment and permitting program, Oregon has just implemented one that will begin taking effect in 2019. Unlike Washington’s air toxics regulations, the Oregon program will look at cumulative risk assessment for individual facilities and, at some point in the near future, will look at cumulative impacts of multiple facilities in proximity. Unlike the Washington program, there are no off-ramps in Oregon’s regulations. All permitted facilities, regardless of air toxics emission rates, will have to do an evaluation and may have additional requirements imposed.

Brownfield Cleanup Funding by Seth Otto, AICP, LEED AP, Senior Planner

Brownfields remain a popular focus for economic development on a national level, and it is one EPA program that regularly receives bipartisan support. We anticipate funding for the flagship ARC (Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, Cleanup) grant to be maintained. Some modifications were made to the program in 2018 in response to how communities are using the program, which has resulted in fewer total grants, funded at higher levels. The new multipurpose grant is an example. With funding up to $1M per award, this grant provides communities with resources to complete assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment planning in one program.

In Oregon, Governor Brown’s preliminary budget identifies $10m in funding to recapitalize the Business Oregon Brownfield Fund. This is good news for brownfield projects around the state because that program provides flexible grants and loans to both public and private entities. It is often the first stop for agencies looking to address brownfield-related issues and promote redevelopment in their communities. The state legislature will also be considering a tax credit that provides an income tax benefit for eligible projects that remediate and redevelop brownfields. The proposed policy would reimburse between 50 and 100 percent of the cost of remediating environmental contamination.

Portland Harbor Superfund Site by Michael Murray, RG, LHG, Senior Hydrogeologist

Issues surrounding the Portland Harbor Superfund Site started heating up in early 2017 with the EPA’s issuance of the Record of Decision that dictates how the billion-dollar lower Willamette River cleanup will progress. As 2018 was drawing to a close, the eagerly awaited “re-baselining” of the river was being completed by an industry group named the Pre-Remedial Design Group, and fresh data is now trickling in for all sites.

In early December, the EPA stated that it is looking for Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) to do “100% of design in 100% of the site” by the end of 2019, and that early PRPs who step up to negotiate consent decrees for remedial actions will be incentivized with greater PRP control over design and cost as well as obviation of the need for EPA enforcement actions. Therefore, 2019 will likely be a year of PRP alliance building, incentivized consent decree negotiation with the EPA, data collection and analysis supporting in-water design, and activities to support the confidential cost-allocation effort.

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Alistaire Clary

Alistaire Clary, PE

Chief Operations Officer/Principal Engineer