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Environmental policy office creates new compliance unit

by Richard Veilleux - April 9, 2007

A new Environmental Compliance Office has been established in the Office of Environmental Policy, allowing University administrators to improve compliance with environmental regulations and permits, while also saving money by reducing reliance on outside consultants.

Richard Miller, director of the Office of Environmental Policy, says the new office, staffed by three recent hires, will save the University hundreds of thousands of dollars; reduce environmental risks; and develop staff expertise to better manage the multiple compliance issues faced on a nearly daily basis.

There are more than 600 air emissions units, such as boilers and generators, more than 1,100 catch basins, miles of storm water drainage pipes, a sewage treatment plant, a cogeneration facility for central electricity, heating, and cooling, and a water supply system – which also serves Mansfield town offices, local businesses, and residents in and around Storrs – and more than 4,000 acres of University-owned land in Mansfield.

“Ownership and operation of these utilities and other assets all generate environmental compliance issues,” Miller says.

“Then there’s the UConn 2000 capital improvement program,” he continued.

“Few, if any, entities in the state are doing as much construction as UConn. That creates environmental responsibilities for erosion control, storm water management, inland wetlands protection, and environmental studies to assess and mitigate dozens of construction and growth-related impacts.”

The new compliance officers – Stephanie Marks, Paul Ferri, and Jason Coite – together bring more than 30 years’ experience in environmental compliance and permitting from the private sector.

The analysts have been assigned specialized tasks that align with their expertise, and cross-training will ensure teamwork and coverage of multiple issues.

“They all have excellent track records, and having compliance officers on staff gives us greater assurance that our needs will be met,” says Miller.

“Doing this work in-house allows us to see the bigger picture. A consultant planning to install an emergency generator for a specific project may not be aware of a campus-wide emissions threshold. Yet if we inadvertently exceeded that threshold, it would be a serious violation. The analysts will reduce these risks and give University employees a place to turn for advice and assistance from staff with the appropriate level of environmental expertise. Our new analysts will provide these kinds of support service not only at the main campus but also at our regional campuses and other facilities.”

Miller says having staff dedicated to environmental compliance issues also enables facilities and construction project managers to focus on their jobs, increasing productivity and reducing stress levels.

Funding for the new positions was reallocated from operating budgets in the facilities and architectural and engineering departments.

Miller says inspectors with the Environmental Protection Agency’s New England Region began a college and university initiative in 2001 and, in coordination with the state Department of Environmental Protection, they’ve become much more aggressive in working to ferret out non-compliance.

A number of other agencies, such as the state Department of Public Health, have increased their environmental regulation of UConn.

Miller says his office will continue to perform all tasks related to environmental sustainability, such as climate change, water conservation, green building, recycling, and other environmental initiatives, relying substantially on student interns and University work groups.

And the Office of Environmental Health and Safety will continue performing their function, which focuses on laboratory waste management, safety, and indoor environmental health issues.

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