Observers applaud new environmental coalition
A new environmental coalition's aim is to share best practices and collaborate on projects.
BY PAULA BURKES firstname.lastname@example.org Oklahoman
Published: March 13, 2011
An administrator with the state Department of Environmental Quality and executives of industry across Oklahoma applaud the recent formation of a new nonprofit coalition aimed at improving environmental management systems nationwide.
Introduced in late January, the Washington-based Stewardship Action Council was formed to build on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Performance Track Program, a nine-year initiative the Obama administration dissolved two years ago.
Along with budget and people constraints, Performance Track was regarded as a part of the Bush administration, said Dianne Wilkins, environmental program manager for the state DEQ. "Many," she said, "were skeptical of the voluntary program and that the EPA placed members at low priority for routine inspections."
But the new Stewardship Action Council creates a unique multi-sector network focused on sharing best practices and partnering on collaborative projects, Wilkins said. Moreover, participating industrial facilities will commit to implementing an environmental management system, set goals for improvement and report on them annually, she said.
The SAC's 28 founding members include 11 companies, 10 state environmental agencies, two universities, one social investment group, the Wildlife Habitat Council and three other nonprofit stakeholders.
A member of defunct Performance Track, Michelin North America Inc. is proud to be among the SAC founders, Myra Carpenter, corporate environmental manager, told The Oklahoman on a telephone interview this past week. "The new council fills a two-year void for collaborating with like-minded companies," she said.
Among its weaknesses, the Performance Track didn't share enough outcomes and lacked participation by enough nongovernmental organizations, Carpenter said. But the SAC, she said, has buy-in from academia and other alliance members, and stakeholder work groups in which she's involved already are planning to share verifiable reports.
Moving forward, the coalition plans to develop a performance-based sustainability index, Carpenter said, which members can use to direct and measure sustainability improvements.
Local sustainability efforts
In Oklahoma, Michelin, the Xerox Corp. and Federal Aviation Administration have sustainability systems in place at their respective plants in Ardmore, Yukon and Oklahoma City.
Carpenter said Michelin just last month kicked off a partnership with HWI Technologies Inc. waste management company in Ardmore. The company began by educating employees on efficient recycling. . Because HWI is in the waste management business, the company can leverage Michelin's volume of recyclable waste to get better revenue, she said.
"At a minimum, we don't want to have to worry about the waste we generate causing an impact on the environment," Carpenter said. Rubber waste from tires, she said, has been used to make floor mats, plastic combs and other products.
At its Yukon plant - where 70 employees manufacture toner, tape for binding books and charging components for print cartridges - Xerox significantly improved its energy efficiency a few years ago by installing new chilled water flow controls, upgrading boiler controls and continuing lighting optimization projects with low energy fixtures and occupancy sensors, quality assurance manager Donna Sewell said.
From 2002 through 2009, energy efficiency projects and decreased volumes reduced respective electricity and natural gas usage by 78 percent and 66 percent, translating into a nearly 87 percent reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents, Sewell said.
At FAA's 1,100-acre, 127-building campus, contractors have replaced 11,700 lamps and 6,227 ballasts with low wattage T-8 lamps and premium efficient ballasts, said Jim Long, environmental management system coordinator. The initiative annually saves the center an estimated 819 megawatt-hours and $40,000, Long said.
Thirty-five percent of FAA's maintenance fleet, or 69 vehicles, now are electric, Long said. By year-end, the center will reduce its annual carbon footprint by about 69 tons, he said.
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