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Some of the Best Things in Life are Free - Like Energy and Pollution Prevention Assessments

“Our economic and environmental goals are aligned. In fact, we believe that the best way for us to be more profitable is to make our business and products more sustainable.”  - William Clay Ford, Jr., Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board,  Ford Motor Company

Numerous members of the Fortune 500 have developed or are developing sustainability programs and reporting their results.  These companies have adopted sustainability in large part because improvements in operating and reduction of waste, and water and energy usage lead to real savings.  It demonstrates a real revolution in corporate operation and governance.

But, if you are a small business owner, you have to be thinking, "Well, that's great for Ford and all, but I'm just a small guy.  I don't have their assets.  How can I take advantage of this?"  Well, wonder no more.  The State of Michigan has programs that provide free assessments and a way to obtain low-interest loans to incorporate the recommendations.  In this blog entry, I will talk about how to get those free assessments and, next week, will discuss how to obtain those low-interest loans.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) operates a program called the "Retired Engineer Technical Assistance Program" or "RETAP."  RETAP provides engineers that will conduct an on-site assessment for pollution prevention and/or energy assessments for small businesses in Michigan.  These assessments are confidential, non-regulatory, and there is no obligation to undertake any of the recommendations the RETAP engineers provide.  The assessments are also done at no cost.  They are also available for a whole host of small businesses (those under 500 employees), including, agriculture, medical facilities, dry cleaners, wood products, metal finishing and forming, and numerous other types of operations.

This may be the largest, small business program you have never heard of.  In 2010, RETAP conducted 134 energy assessments.  In 2009, RETAP conducted 81 pollution prevention (P2) assessments.  These assessments will provide not only practical solutions to reduce pollution, energy use and waste, they can provide you with an estimate of the costs of implementing the recommendations and the potential savings associated with those improvements.  A long list of testimonials from happy customers (many of whom are instantly recognizable) is available here.  There are approximately 60 RETAP engineers in the program.

So, you're sold on the idea, but how to get started?  First, contact the RETAP technical assistance contractor by sending in this form.  Next, a RETAP engineer will do a quick pre-assessment, obtaining information about the business and conducting a quick walk-through of the facility.  At the actual assessment, a team of RETAP engineers will go through the facility and operations and meet with the facility operator to discuss preliminary observations.  Then, a RETAP assessment report is generated and sent to the business within 60 days.  Finally, RETAP engineers conduct follow up to see if measures have been instituted and provide additional technical support.

But wait, THERE'S MORE!  Tune in next week and I will describe MDEQ's low-interest loan program that can help pay for some of the improvements suggested by the RETAP engineers.

The author, Saulius Mikalonis, is an environmental attorney with over 25 years of experience in the Bloomfield Hills offices of Plunkett Cooney.  He is also the author of The Green Blawg, in which he writes about environmental law issues for the non-lawyer.  In addition to practicing law, Mr. Mikalonis is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills Campus, at which he teaches a course entitled "Sustainable Development Law & Policy" and a former Board Member of the Detroit Regional Chapter of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

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