Posted by: Green Knight | August 29, 2010

Regulatory Agencies

When I was a State environmental inspector, there was a lot of public confusion as to who regulated what.  Often people had called several organizations before finally getting bounced to the right one, and many government employees don’t know (or, frequently, care) much about their counterparts.  Here’s a quick rundown of how it works in the States…for those of you not in the US, your jurisdictions may vary but ought to be comparable.

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency): mission is human health and the environment.  Programs for air pollution, water pollution, safe drinking water, hazardous and solid waste, new & banned chemicals and pesticides, endangered species.

OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration): all about worker protection.  Does not cover visitors, bystanders, etc.

DOT (Department of Transportation): covers safe shipment of hazardous materials under its Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.  Those diamond-shaped placards you see on trucks and rail cars are required by these guys.

DOE (Department of Energy): regulates radioactive materials and waste.

Coast Guard: works with EPA on oil and chemical spills to navigable waterways.

MSHA (Mine Safety & Health Administration): sister agency to OSHA, regulates surface and underground mining.  With countries like China and Chile having better track records in mine rescues than the US lately, it might be time for a shakeup.

HUD (Housing & Urban Development): overlaps with EPA on the lead-based paint issue.  Sporadically funded, and doesn’t follow its own “guidelines” half the time on abatement projects.

NFPA (National Fire Protection Association): requires those other, 4-color, diamond-shaped placards for hazardous material storage…most commonly seen on propane cages.

US Fish & Wildlife Service: works with EPA on endangered-species issues.

Then there are research and advisory agencies like NIOSH, the CSB, NTSB, etc., that don’t do enforcement, but make recommendations to agencies that do.

That’s just the Federal level.  Most states have an environmental agency like the one I worked for, and a health department.  Local agencies like health, fire, building inspection, etc. may also be involved.  Knowing whom to call, in a timely manner, can keep a potential hazard from turning into a disaster.

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