Friday, April 30, 2010

Around the Sound: Enforcing the Rayonier Mill cleanup agreement

By Rebecca Lawson, Toxics Cleanup Program Section Manager

On March 25th, I signed a new cleanup agreement with Rayonier after working with my team to review and respond to public comments. In addition to the three-year timeline, one of the largest public concerns is Ecology’s ability to enforce the agreement.

After 10 years of investigations, partial cleanups, and waiting, the Port Angeles community wants to know whether Ecology can keep things moving forward now. They want to know what happens if Rayonier misses deadlines in the agreement, how extensions will be granted, and how disputes will be resolved. These issues are covered in our Responsiveness Summary, but I wanted to explain why I believe this agreement will work.

Clear expectations: This new agreement sets clear expectations and a timeline for the work Rayonier must do. Ecology is specific about what data gaps must be filled in the upland portion of the Study Area. This is critical because the new data will give us a more complete picture of where (and what type of) cleanup needs to happen.

Open communication: Ecology and Rayonier have established a good working relationship with frequent contact. Staff members from both are working collaboratively to avoid surprises when Rayonier submits a draft document, or when Ecology returns comments. We plan to meet with Rayonier about each deliverable and have open dialogue about next steps.

Clear processes: To address public concerns, yes, Rayonier must request schedule extensions in a timely manner. This means letting Ecology know at least 21 days in advance. Also, the dispute resolution process may not be used to delay work unless Ecology agrees to an extension. With the good relationship between the project coordinators, I expect issues to be resolved at that level. If not, dispute resolution goes straight to me, and includes consultation with the Attorney General’s Office.

Enforcement tools: So what teeth does this agreement have? Ecology has a number of enforcement tools, but ultimately we can take over the work and recover costs from Rayonier if the process stalls. This would allow us to keep this high priority cleanup moving forward.

It’s important to know that Ecology and Rayonier have committed to working cooperatively. I hope to never have to invoke Ecology’s enforcement tools, but I want the community to know that cleanup is our priority and we will do what’s needed to see this agreement through.

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