RCC Fact Sheet Helps With Environmental Regulatory Structure

Ensuring compliance in California with environmental regulations is challenging. The state has a confusing structure of multiple regulatory jurisdictions that can result in variability in the regulations, interpretation and enforcement. This structure is especially difficult for retailers who operate in numerous locations. In addition, California has not been shy with enforcement, leading to multimillion-dollar settlements against retailers, the largest of which are related to hazardous waste management.

To develop effective compliance programs, retailers need to understand both the environmental regulations that apply to retail operations as well as the universe of state regulatory agencies and responsibilities. To help, the RCC has developed a fact sheet on the California Regulatory Structure for Retailers. A brief look at the California regulatory structure is below, the fact sheet provides a more detailed look at the agencies, their responsibilities, and key regulations.

The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) is a Cabinet level agency with a mission to "restore, protect and enhance the environment, to ensure public health, environmental quality and economic vitality." CalEPA departments and regulatory programs most relevant to retailers include:

  • Department of Toxic Substances and Control (DTSC) – Oversight of the Hazardous Waste Management Program.
  • The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) – Home of the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly known as Proposition 65.
  • California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) – Covers non-hazardous solid waste and recycling programs including organics management, and recycling of materials such as electronics, used tires, paint, and mattresses and motor oil.
  • Department of Public Health (DPH) – Medical Waste Management Act.
  • California Air Resources Board (CARB) – Sets emission standards for vehicles, fuels, and consumer products, and refrigerant management. CARB also oversees the 35 local air pollution control districts, which manage permitting and compliance for stationary sources, including emergency generators.

Another relevant agency is the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OFSM), which assists the Hazardous Material Management Plan (HMMP) and the Hazardous Materials Inventory Statement (HMIS) programs.

Perhaps the most visible entity for retailers are the Certified Unified Program Agencies (CUPA). CalEPA oversees the California Unified Program, which gives authority to the CUPAs for permitting and enforcement for several programs that are relevant to retailers. These areas include petroleum storage tanks, accidental release programs, Hazardous Materials Plan and Inventory statements, and hazardous waste generators. Each California county is required to have a certified CUPA but other cities or local agencies such as fire departments, may also request CUPA certification.

The CUPAs are where "the rubber meets the road" as they are the agencies that permit and inspect facilities for the areas listed above. CUPAs can implement enforcement actions for non-compliance or refer enforcement matters to county district attorneys, state-level agencies or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The annual CUPA conference is an opportunity for regulated entities to meet and hear from CUPA regulators.

Key California Environmental Regulations for Retailers

The RCC Fact Sheet also covers key environmental regulations that can apply in retail operations such as:

  • Hazardous Materials Management – retail-relevant regulated materials include refrigerants used onsite, propane for forklifts, and helium.
  • Hazardous Waste including Universal Waste – can include unsalable products that meet certain criteria as well as operational waste.
  • Medical Waste Management – applies to facilities that generate medical waste, which can include pharmaceuticals plus medical waste such as used syringes and body fluids.
  • Proposition 65 – requires warnings about exposure to chemicals on OEHHA list.
  • Refrigerant Management – program requires activities such as leak inspections and repair, and reporting. Differs from federal requirements.
  • Emergency Generator air permitting – managed by local air permitting control districts (APCD)
  • Commercial recycling – requirements for recycling.
  • Organics recycling – requirements for organics recycling.

Retailers need to be aware of the requirements for these areas, at the state but also frequently at the local level as well keep track of changes or new programs.

After reading the California Regulatory Structure for Retailers Fact Sheet, visit the RCC website for additional resources on regulations and program management.

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