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REDUCING A UTILITY'S ENVIRONMENTAL LIABILITIES A ROLE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS AND ISO14000

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For the typical corporate enterprise, the cost of continual environmental improvement is focused on the need to balance regulations, resources and voluntary initiatives. The same should be true for the municipal enterprise or utility. Environmental agencies in many of the states are evaluating means to achieve environmental gains through more effective, less costly compliance and through promotion of pollution prevention methods and technologies. North Carolina, among other states, has been a leader in that effort. Resource allocation and environmental performance issues are being addressed by both the regulators and the regulated alike. The challenge for municipalities, just like many of the corporations they serve, is to achieve compliance at the lowest possible cost, without compromising the ultimate environmental sustainability of the community.

To meet that challenge, some municipalities are beginning to evaluate their environmental management systems (EMS) from a much broader, enterprise wide perspective and are looking at issues of sustainability as part of their management strategy. Since the fall of 1996, industry has had formal guidance on how such a sustainable enterprise might measure environmental performance. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has promulgated portions of the ISO14000 Environmental Management Standards that may prove to be a helpful tool for focusing resource and performance issues for industry and now municipalities. The principal document of this series, ISO 14001, Environmental Management Systems (EMS), provides a framework for implementing an organization's environmental policy to meet its EMS objectives. Pollution prevention and compliance are two required policy elements of the 14001 systems that the enterprise must address. Municipalities have been slow to adopt this standard, or even to consider the many key concepts. This paper will illustrate several examples of how the adoption of the concepts embodied in these standards can benefit the “bottom line” of a utility or a municipality's environmental budget.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-01-01

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