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University to conduct environmental self-audit
University to conduct environmental self-auditDecember 02, 2002Kevin Morrowkdmorrow@syr.edu
Syracuse University has signed an historic agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in which SU will conduct a comprehensive environmental audit of its facilities in Syracuse, Joseph I. Lubin House in New York City, and the Minnowbrook Conference Center in Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y.
The agreement-the first of its kind with a private college or university-continues EPA’s national initiative to help institutions of higher learning comply with environmental regulations. The University will undertake a comprehensive environmental audit using an independent third-party auditor, self report any violations, correct deficiencies in environmental management, and work to prevent recurring violations. EPA has agreed to waive gravity based penalties for self disclosed violations.
EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny and Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw signed the agreement at a Nov. 19 ceremony in Eggers Hall. The document covers all major federal environmental programs, including air, water, pesticides, solid and hazardous wastes, hazardous substances and chemicals, environmental response, emergency planning, Community Right-to-Know and toxic substances control.
“Both EPA and Syracuse get something very positive out of this,” Kenny says. “This agreement helps the University protect human health and the environment. It helps it to more effectively discover and fix violations. It reduces or eliminates financial penalties, and it conserves EPA resources.”
“This agreement allows the University to implement a systematic assessment of our environmental compliance status in the spirit of cooperation with EPA,” says Jim McCumber, director of SU’s Environmental Health Office (EHO) and a principal drafter of the agreement.
EHO has sent out a request for proposals to companies that might serve in the role of independent auditor. According to McCumber, current plans are for the selection process to be completed by Jan. 10 and the auditor to begin work in mid-February. The audit timeline and the entire SU-EPA document can be found at http://bfasweb.syr.edu/env_hlth/.
This is EPA’s third self-audit agreement with a university in the region. The first was with the Rutgers University system in New Jersey, and the second with the State University of New York (SUNY).
“This agreement is important because it reinforces the University’s commitment to continuous self-assessment and improvement in environmental compliance,” said David Pajak, SU director of risk management.
The SU agreement is part of EPA’s Colleges and Universities Initiative, which was launched in 1999 because many institutions of higher learning were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws or had failed to implement strategies to comply with them. As part of the initiative, EPA sent letters to 365 colleges and universities in New Jersey, New York and Puerto Rico, held free workshops to help colleges and universities comply, established a Web site with information about their duties under the law, and warned colleges and universities that EPA inspections of their facilities were imminent.
EPA attempted to build awareness of the agency’s Voluntary Audit Policy, through which institutions can investigate and disclose environmental compliance violations to the agency. As a compliance incentive, institutions may receive a conditional reduction in financial penalties for self reported violations.
To date, 48 colleges and universities in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico have come forward to disclose violations. More than half have been granted 100 percent waivers of certain penalties, while the other cases are still under review.