[StBernard] Point of View - By Ron Chapman
westley at da-parish.com
Mon Feb 27 23:50:45 EST 2006
Point of View - by Ron Chapman
I made an error the other day and wish to take this opportunity to publicly
During a session of the Citizen's Recovery Committee this past week the
issue of creating a local environmental committee arose. During the
discussion I raised concerns. In particular, I was troubled by the
potential for this becoming a renegade group whose agenda would be a
variance with maintaining the balance between enforcing environmental laws
and encouraging economic development.
I do not oppose legitimate local oversight. I do, however, urge that it
operate appropriately and legally with proper constraint. I next wonder, is
there a need for more bureaucracies?
I cited the fact that we already have a federal Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and a state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). These
agencies follow set rules and are governed by laws and proven science.
They are not driven by personal or political agendas.
As such, if improvements in environmental legislation are needed, these
changes are legislated through an existing political infrastructure that is
sanctioned by federal and state law. My concern was that a local
organization operating without such legal constraints could devolve into
something entirely different than intended.
Apparently a member of the audience took offense at my rather benign
questions and launched into an attack on my business by stating in a public
meeting that my company polluted the air and that my employees dumped
chemicals into the drainage system.
I restrained from immediately responding to that comment because this was
not a forum for getting into a one-on-one debate over a personal attack.
Such debate is not the purpose or function of the Citizen's Recovery
Committee. Furthermore, I was admonished from childhood to never speak in
However, now that I think about it, my company and my own reputation as a
good corporate neighbor were challenged in a public meeting and by not
speaking in its defense I left the impression that the allegations were
correct. I was mistaken!
These are the facts. At least 8 years ago I personally called and made an
appointment with EPA and DEQ. I voluntarily invited them into my shop with
the specific task of letting me know if I was in any way violating the law.
I wanted to be in total accord with all environmental regulations. Since
then I have maintained an open relationship with these agencies and pay for
and receive the necessary permits.
They spent six (6) hours looking over my shop and discussing regulations.
They actually congratulated me for my efforts to run a clean operation. In
fact, they took one of the procedures I used for mitigating unused polyester
gelcoats under advisement and a year later that became accepted policy. My
procedure was cleaner for the waste stream.as I had explained to them at the
The same process was applied to air quality. They measured and approved.
My shop is, or perhaps I should say pre- Katrina, "was", in full compliance
with all environmental regulations! The fact that something has an odor
does not automatically mean that it is harmful. Some people have an
odor.should we ban them? My company met all federal and state environmental
guidelines and regulations!
As for the matter of "dumping chemicals into the drainage system", that
particularly angered me and demands clarification. The "chemicals" in
question are likely the water-soluble EPA approved mold release that was
hosed out of the molds. It is like soap.harmless! To have that
characterized in a public meeting as irresponsible, or worse, an illegal
dumping activity on my part was outrageous. I should have aggressively
spoken out, but again I restrained myself.mistake!
This whole issue highlights a very important point. The point I made during
the meeting. Local, unrestrained environmental organizations when given the
cover of local government can become dangerous. This is especially the
case if these people have an agenda and are not restrained by procedures
based upon good science, the law, or facts. Individuals or groups who
defame businesses in public with no proof that their allegations have merit
are a cause for concern and should not be designing or members of local
departments for environmental quality.
This is not the first time an effort has been made to incorporate an
environmental office of questionable legality in local government. The Home
Rule Charter Review Committee was approached and presented with a plan that,
to put it mildly, was outrageous. What was presented to the Charter
Committee would have authorized unhampered and unannounced twenty-four hour
access to all commercial and industrial facilities with the right to search
and discover environmental violations.
This proposal was a direct assault on the U.S. Constitution. Article IV of
the Bill of Rights prohibits illegal searches and seizures. The 14th
amendment requires that all investigations be conducted with Due Process.
Homeland Security regulations prevent unhindered access to certain
facilities for security reasons. But these concerns were callously brushed
aside. The proposed committee would have become an environmental Gestapo.
As a reward for exercising my thoughts at the CRC meeting, my business was
publicly attacked. It appears Article II, Freedom of Speech, is also of no
consequence to these people. Dare to even express a contrary opinion and
suffer the consequences. Your business will be attacked despite the fact
that it has a clean record. This is dangerous stuff!
If St. Bernard elects to establish it own environmental watchdog group, I
urge that it be composed of proven professionals who are dedicated to
serving the public and maintaining the law, not reinterpreting or
misinterpreting it. The membership should also be calm and objective in
their deliberations, not driven by strident activist notions. But more
important, the organization must recognize that there is a constitution in
this nation that protects citizen and business rights against unwarranted
intrusions and scandalous outbursts.
I should have stood up and challenged these false allegations at the
meeting, but I exercised restraint for the reasons cited above. I now
believe that my failure to immediately respond was a mistake. It may have
left the wrong impression. I chose this forum to set the record straight!
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