Today's increasingly global marketplace is flooded with numerous environmental control technologies for use by industry. But the major problem is trust: how can a buyer be assured of a specific technology's promise? Private firms that buy an environmental technology to reduce or avoid pollution have this major concern. The government permitting process is long-winded, complex and legally uncertain. In response to these issues, the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA) has developed a high-quality environmental certification process for new products in the marketplace. This program is a cooperative venture between Cal EPA and private companies that provide environmental technologies and are seeking certification. In its few years of operation, the program has proven remarkably successful in jointly addressing the needs of product vendors and the State's public agency.
The program uses various methods to certify technologies such as comprehensive reviews of the technology, reviews of test and field data, additional testing if needed, and peer reviews. The cost of certifying the technology is passed to the client (typically a company seeking certification) who provides full reimbursement for the process, including overhead costs. Federal grants also support the development of the program. Additionally, the program incorporates various levels of public-private partnerships. Its basis involves a state agency working with companies to certify their products. In the certification process, the Cal EPA also hires private consultants and national labs on contract to carry out verification activities. However, it retains the authority for final adjudication. This program was passed unopposed in the California legislature with additional unchallenged expansions. Evidently, it is quite popular with industry representatives, the government, and the general public.
The effectiveness of the program can be judged from the ease with which vendors have been able to market their products within the State and throughout the world due to the certification. International users and governments in other countries have valued products that come with California's stamp of approval. Financiers say that it eradicates the risk associated with a new product and makes it easier for a start-up company to get capital. The program also looks to be replicable within other Cal EPA programs and jurisdictions. At the national level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Departments of Commerce, Defense and Energy are all considering following California's lead by establishing environmental verification programs. Canada has also contacted California about developing a national technology certification program. However, it is quite likely that many U.S. states will increasingly rely on the CA certification as a national standard and use its results for their purposes.
In a State where businesses have blamed slow environmental regulatory mechanisms for economic recession, the California certification program is a breath of fresh air. It effectively addresses these complaints while upholding the State's strict environmental standards for emissions and discharges. Efficient, effective and self-sustaining, it is a useful model for other public agencies to follow.