Environmental Assessment Standards for Public-Private Arenas
An Interview with Julie Kilgore, Wasatch Environmental
As both current chairman and a member of Committee E50, what do you feel is the significance of the committee’s work?
Committee E50 tends to wade into chaotic waters, where emerging issues are not well defined and standard approaches have not been established. Many of the standards developed by E50 relate to complex systems, conditions and issues where professional judgment in unique situations is a routine demand. Producers and users of environmental services benefit from E50’s well-balanced approach that results in scientifically sound standards that also respect professional judgment and users’ specific needs.
For example, in the committee’s early days, federal legislation and conflicting court decisions related to environmental due diligence created havoc in the marketplace. E1527, Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process, was developed to establish a practical, legally defensible baseline approach that could be reasonably applied across the country. Given the wide range of property types, the unique aspects of any geologic setting and the variable local regulatory environments, the E1527 practice recognizes that professional judgment is vital to performance of the standard, allowing for additions to or deviations from the baseline components of the standard practice as necessary to achieve the objectives. This approach is quite different from most ASTM standard practices.
There are many other examples where E50 has been approached to assist with challenging issues. To broaden the technical options and feasibility of implementing environmental cleanups, E1739, Guide for Risk-Based Corrective Action Applied at Petroleum Release Sites, was developed to establish alternate cleanup levels that didn’t exist at the time. When vapor intrusion emerged as a leading legal battlefield, E50 developed a screening tool to assist industry in understanding this risk. And currently, as the country grapples with understanding the effects of changing global climate conditions, E50 is working to bring consistency to business decision making, communications and strategic planning regarding greenhouse gas emissions, control and reduction conditions.
Why are standards needed in these areas?
Federal and state law and regulations on assessing, cleaning up and managing environmental issues tend to set ultimate requirements, but they do not necessarily describe a useful approach to meet the requirements. The committee’s work is significant because it fills gaps left by agency regulations, or bridges industry needs while regulation is being developed, and it really explains to the affected parties the particular steps they need to take to manage environmental risk.
The vast expertise and experience of the E50 committee membership, one of the largest committees in ASTM, comprises a strong and respected voice in developing relevant and timely standards that meet dynamic needs within ever-changing scientific and regulatory atmospheres.
Committee E50 and the U.S. federal government have collaborated over the years. How would you describe this collaboration and its importance?
The most recent revision of the E1527 Phase I environmental site assessment standard is a prime example of successful public-private collaboration. The E1527 standard was based on federal legislation dating back to 1980. Then, 20 years later, ASTM and EPA worked together to revise this widely adopted industry standard to meet EPA’s more recent regulatory criteria for environmental due diligence. By working together closely, EPA issued its final All Appropriate Inquiries rule and ASTM issued its revised E1527 Phase I standard — cited in EPA’s AAI Rule — within weeks of each other in November 2005, perhaps an unprecedented example of such collaboration.
Another example of successful collaboration with EPA is the 2008 revision to E2247, Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process for Forestland or Rural Property. EPA and other federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, were interested in working with ASTM to revise the forestland standard to meet AAI requirements. E2247 was considered a valuable tool for the assessment of large acreage forestland and rural property, but landowner liability protections under AAI could not be demonstrated. By focusing the revisions on the need for AAI compliance, and through the established relationship between ASTM and EPA, the E2247 standard was revised and a direct final rule amending AAI to incorporate the forestland Phase I standard was issued.
Individual states have also played a huge role in partnering with ASTM in the development of standards and also in implementation. For example, many states helped develop E1739, Guide for Risk-Based Corrective Action Applied at Petroleum Release Sites, then further customized E1739 to best fit their regulatory environment. More recently, states were very involved in development of the continuing obligations standard — ASTM E2790, Guide for Identifying and Complying with Continuing Obligations — a guidance document focused on procedures for taking “reasonable steps” for managing institutional controls at sites where residual contamination remains. EPA also participated during the drafting of the guide, at times voicing important perspectives about controversial topics. With the guide successfully published, EPA highlighted its involvement and praised the ASTM task group for its effort.
This type of collaboration will continue to be important to E50 as the committee helps to fill these gaps, while the agency perspective helps ASTM standards properly mesh with agency requirements.
What is your sense of the international use of E50 standards?
E50 standards are typically grounded in U.S. law, whether it’s underground storage tank requirements, risk management tools or environmental due diligence. So I find it interesting that E50 standards are used or referenced in other countries. I’ve spoken with industry representatives from other countries who have said that E50 standards have served as a model for evaluating environmental conditions or implementing environmental management tools in their respective countries.
Sales of E50 standards such as E1527 attest to relevance in these international markets. Consultants and companies around the world, in Europe and Asia, Africa and South America, are making use of E1527. The same is true of E1903, Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase II Environmental Site Assessment Process. And, training courses focused on E50 standards have taken place in Asia and Europe as well as throughout the United States.
The new ASTM Vapor Encroachment Condition Screening Personnel Certificate Program offers a credential to those who have attended the ASTM course using methodology in the E50 standard, E2600, Guide for Vapor Encroachment Screening on Property Involved in Real Estate Transactions. Why is the program useful?
We’ve learned that service providers regularly cite an E50 standard, and may even attend one of the E50 training courses, but they still may not have a good understanding of the practice or guidance document they are referencing. The certification program developed for those completing the E2600 training is important because it requires that the service provider not only attend the training, but demonstrate an understanding of its application. It adds credibility for the professional, but it also strengthens industry’s perception of an ASTM standard. I’ve often heard criticism of an ASTM standard, only to find that the criticism was based on a misunderstanding of the requirements.
The vapor intrusion certification program has been successful and we have considered others, particularly for the E1527 Phase I environmental site assessments.
Julie Kilgore, principal and managing partner at Wasatch Environmental in Salt Lake City, Utah, is chairman of ASTM International Committee E50 on Environmental Assessment, Risk Management and Corrective Action. A former member of the ASTM board of directors, Kilgore is an ASTM fellow and Award of Merit recipient who has worked on Committee E50 since 1994. She served on the regulatory negotiation Federal Advisory Committee that assisted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in developing the federal All Appropriate Inquiries regulation that ultimately adopted, by reference, ASTM E1527. In her career, Kilgore has concentrated on facilitating business and environmental management relationships, and she has worked to instill business management principles into the environmental investigation, remediation and restoration field.
This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.