Monday, January 21, 2008

Inspect me, Jersey DEP, please!

Until now, the sudden appearance of a DEP inspector on your business doorstep was about as welcome as a social disease. But now, at least for some in New Jersey, that's about to change in a radically welcome way.

Long known for its strict (some might prefer the term 'aggressive'?) enforcement tactics, the state Department of Environmental Protection is adopting a kinder and gentler approach when its inspectors, failing to find violations, actually encounter businesses making an extra effort to be good environmental citizens.

"The concept of an environmental cop on the beat has always been strong in New Jersey," says DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson. "What is also strong is the spirit of innovation at the DEP. We are leading the country again, this time by defining and measuring the incredible amount of environmental good that exists in our state."

How are they planning to do this?

The Department is implementing an Environmental Stewardship Program to publicly recognize businesses that go beyond minimum environmental requirements. The goal, they say, is to encourage all businesses to evaluate their current facility operations and integrate stewardship initiatives into their operations.

In other words, the carrot instead of the stick.

How will DEP inspectors go about the job? The following is directly from a DEP news release:

"The companies will be asked, among other things, whether they have broadly adopted stewardship activities, whether they have a comprehensive written environmental policy, whether they operate under an Environmental Management System designed to reduce environmental impacts, and whether they publish an annual environmental report. The companies also will be asked whether they have documented their greenhouse gas emissions, whether they employ environmentally friendly purchasing policies, whether they operate certified green buildings, and whether they have employee trip reduction programs.The inspector may review certain documents, processes and operating procedures to verify stewardship activities."

Does that sound just a tad bureaucratic to you? Maybe, but remember, this is state government we're talking about. At least they're trying. And besides, how would you like to be the DEP supervisor who explains the new program to Inspector Callahan?

For more, here's DEP's news release and a link to its Stewardship program.


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