Dr. Terry L. Polan<
Terry Polan partners with business on EPA regulations
May 1, 2012
Terry L. Polen remembers hauling hay down on the farm, and sometimes the hay bales came faster than he could catch them. That's the way business people often feel about the WV Department of Environmental Protection, Polan told Putnam Rotarians in their luncheon meeting today.
"Somebody much bigger than you is up there throwing things at you faster than you can catch them. And if you don't catch them, you can get hurt."
With the hot-button issues on mining permits and water quality today, his audience was quick with questions and comments.
An old friend was happy to see Polan recently, but when Polan told him he was now with DEP the friend's demeanor abruptly changed. "What has happened to you?" he asked. "You were always such a nice guy!"
And someone else told him that, when he spoke publicly, "make sure they know that you are with the state DEP and not the federal EPA."
And Polan was asked to explain the difference: "The federal government requires the state to adopt regulations which are no less stringent than the federal standards. But there is a state law that nothing can be adopted which is more stringent. Therefore, the state and federal regulations are very similar.
"There's a grand demarcation," he said, "in the ways that the state and federal governments work. When we promulgate our regulations, supposedly we have the authority, the autonomy, the primacy for them -- with federal government oversight.
"What we've seen recently is the federal government coming in and saying, 'We don't like that you didn't slap [certain violations]!'"
But, fact is, when Polan says, "We're from the government, and we're here to help," he means it. He really is there to help.
In his job as "ombudsman" for the DEP, his office is outside the regulatory duties of air and water quality permitting.
"What I do in this job is to try to stand beside you, help you catch [the hay bales of regulation] so you don't get hit."
A company once called on Polan for help. "We've got all kinds of environmental issues," they said.
After several weeks of intensive study in the confusing jungle of permit requirements, they suggested the same type of service be extended to other businesses.
So the DEP's ombudsman has arranged workshops and seminars where company reps -- identified by first name only, and not by business -- "can spend eight hours a day on environmental stuff like 45CSR13 [controls on construction or changes in air pollutant sources]."
The response to the Polan method has gone far to ease the friction between industry -- especially mining and power generation -- and the public concern for environmental preservation.
Perhaps this is one reason Polan has been named a leader in a national ombudsman group. After serving two years as vice-chair he will become chairman of the Small Business Environmental Assistance Providers.