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OUR VIEW - Changing EPA permit rules good for business

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:45 PM

Ohio officials must seize any and every opportunity they can to reduce government inefficiencies. And one of the state's most well-known agencies is proposing a move that would do just that, while at the same time relieving some of the pressure on small businesses.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has suggested changes that would reduce the number of times small businesses filed reports on pollution emissions and increase the length of the permits they must have to operate. Among the businesses effected include auto body shops, such as Mayflower, dry cleaners and printers.

Under the current system, small businesses must get a one-year permit and reapply every five years. The changes would increase the length of the permit to as long as 10 years. In addition, instead of reporting pollution emissions every three months, the reports would be required once a year.

Understandably, environmental watchdogs are wary. But the changes would only effect small businesses that release fewer than 100 tons of smog- and soot-causing chemicals each year. In comparison, a single power plant produces more than 10,000 tons. So, the changes will not affect the state's largest polluters.

In addition, the standards these facilities must meet have not been changed. The only alteration is a reduction in paperwork, a move which itself will save some trees. But, more importantly, it will reduce the EPA's backlog of renewal applications. Right now, many businesses must wait months for their renewals to be processed, said Michael Hopkins, the EPA's assistant chief of permitting.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce added the extensive reports are a drain on small companies and actually chase business out of the state. As we will continue to reiterate until it happens, Ohio must do whatever it can to become more business friendly.

Of course, we would not want a more business-friendly atmosphere to come at the expense of protecting our air. But, Hopkins says the changes "will significantly cut down on the work we have to do for the same level of environmental protections." In fact, if EPA employees are freed up from office paper work, that would-be-idle time will be spent out in the field, actually doing site inspections.

At worst, the panel of state lawmakers charged with approving the changes should allow them to go forward. If air pollution goes up over time, the state can revert to the old procedure.

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