October 19, 2012
We wrote previously about the Collaborative Stakeholders Initiative that was purposed with re-inventing Michigan's environmental clean-up program. With the success of that program and its results continuing to make positive impacts, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality - Remediation and Redevelopment Division (MDEQ) has recently developed some internal processes that are designed to make the Division more cooperative, communicative, and responsive to the needs of all stakeholders that comprise the regulated community. On August 31, 2012, MDEQ published a new policy, the Peer Review Procedure (pdf). It establishes specific steps for MDEQ staff to follow when reviewing documents (Response Activity Plans, Due Care Plans, Remedial Action Plans, etc.) submitted to the MDEQ.
This new procedure promotes and insures meaningful dialog (collaboration) between the regulated community and MDEQ District staff so that a fair outcome is achieved for all parties. It also establishes MDEQ District staff decision making authority to review and approve the various documents submitted to MDEQ by the regulated community, while creating a process for District staff to access technical assistance from various experts within the MDEQ. This technical assistance is provided by teams of subject experts (rules, vapor intrusion, Due Care, etc.) within the MDEQ. These teams are referred to as "Technical Assistance Program Support" teams or TAPS. The procedure provides MDEQ staff with clear steps to follow when Peer Review is necessary.
As Counties entertain public and private redevelopment of brownfields and/or cleanup of their own environmental issues, you will inevitably submit a document to MDEQ that requires peer review. It is, therefore, important for you to know what will become of the document(s) that you submit under this new procedure; what influence you might have on the outcome, who determines the validity of your submission, what parameters are used to complete the analysis, and on what basis decisions are arrived at.
The document that you submit is generally received by the district staff Project Manager (comprised of Environmental Quality Analysts, Geologists, and Engineers) who has been assigned to your project. The MDEQ project manager conducts an initial technical, regulatory, and policy review and evaluation of the document to insure that the document contains the necessary information to make a decision. The project manager may request additional information and/or clarification of information.
Once the Project Manager is satisfied with the completeness of the document and information contained therein, the project manager, several peers, and the district supervisor review the merits of the document; the district supervisor having the authority to render the final decision. Input from the entity proposing the document (County, Municipality, environmental consultant, etc.) may be sought during this process, and in fact, they are encouraged to attend the reviews. This option not only provides greater transparency and collaboration, but facilitates the application of best professional judgment and sound science. At times, the Technical Assistance and Program Support (TAPS) team will assist the project manager in this evaluation if a technical issue requires additional expertise.
What follows are the steps MDEQ takes in the peer review process for matters pertaining to Part 201 and Part 213 programs.
1. Project manager review of documents and input from TAPS teams.
2. Scheduling and preparation of supporting documentation for the district peer review meeting.
3. The district peer review meeting
The results of the Peer Review meeting itself are not necessarily final. If the Document is found deficient, it can be appealed to the Response Activity Review Panel or through a contested case hearing.
Read the full MDEQ Peer Review Procedure! (pdf)
For over 20 years, Envirologic Technologies, Inc. has served as a full service environmental consulting and services firm dedicated to assisting the regulated community in many facets of environmental concerns. Based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Envirologic provides support for brownfield, compliance, due diligence services and more in Michigan and adjacent states.