Rumors had been swirling that there would possibly be a merger between Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) in an effort to consolidate programs and reduce staff. Such a proposal was debated in the prior Ohio Legislature as part of larger plan to reduce the total number of State Agencies. Its possible that as budget discussion progress that proposal will see new life.
While State Agency mergers remain a possibility, Ohio EPA has already started to reorganize internally. Without an official announcement, word is that the Division of Hazardous Waste Management (DHWM) will be broken apart and portions merged with the Division of Solid and Infectious Waste Management (DSIWM) and the Division of Emergency and Remedial Response (DERR).
The solid and hazardous waste permit writers and inspectors will be working together under one newly formed Division. The DHWM clean up staff (RCRA closure and Corrective Actions) will be merged with the DERR staff.
With the dwindling number of permitted hazardous waste (RCRA) facilities, such a reorganization makes practical sense. This will provide the Agency the opportunity to review work loads and reallocate staff to meet current needs.
Perhaps the most interesting portion of the reorganization to watch will be the merger of the DHWM clean up staff with DERR. The line between Voluntary Action Program (VAP) clean ups and regulatory clean up in other programs has become increasingly thin. For example, RCRA Corrective Actions can now be completed by entering the VAP program.
The administrative costs and clean up standards for standard RCRA closures are still much more onerous than VAP clean ups. Will the merger of this staff lead to a reassessment of how clean ups are conducted? While federal regulatory requirements still limit the State’s flexibility to some degree, there remains the possibility for more common sense and consistent approaches to clean up.