News Release 136

Heather Peters named May 2011 Employee of the Month by Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Volume 39-136 (For Immediate Release)
For more information: 573-751-1010

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, MAY 2, 2011 --- Heather Peters, an Environmental Specialist IV with the Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Environmental Quality, has been selected as the May 2011 Employee of the Month. Peters was selected for successfully rewriting and updating rules governing the operation of thousands of underground petroleum storage tanks in Missouri.

In 2009, a package of rules governing these day-to-day operations was presented to the Hazardous Waste Commission for approval. The rules had not been revised since originally promulgated in 1990, and ultimately, the new proposed rules were not approved and subsequently withdrawn. As a compliance specialist, Peters works every day to make sure owners and operators of underground petroleum storage tanks comply with these rules. She also was well aware the rules were outdated, referenced old industry standards, contained outdated deadlines and did not reflect the modern equipment and technological improvements of the last 20 years.

Peters asked for permission to reinitiate the rulemaking process. Over the course of several months, she contacted numerous tank owners and equipment companies and met many of them face-to-face. She sent hundreds of emails, often to only a few people that had specific knowledge or interest in a detail of the rules or a specific piece of equipment.

Involving stakeholders can be challenging when they are numerous, diverse and sometimes difficult to reach. Most gas station owners and equipment companies are also small businesses that have little time to participate on committees or go to meetings. But since they are most affected by the tank rules, communicating effectively with them is critical to writing rules that are beneficial to all parties, and still enforceable. Peters repeatedly shared drafts of various rule provisions and invited feedback. She spent hours in dialogue with staff of the Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund, brainstorming and resolving differences of opinion. She used the PSTIF’s Advisory Committee and the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association as sounding boards for her progress during the rule writing process.

At the February 2011 meeting of the Hazardous Waste Management Commission, her rulemaking package was approved for publication in the Missouri Register, with broad support from external stakeholders.

Peters' collaboration with the Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund and other interested parties resulted in a superior package of rule amendments that effectively balance DNR’s responsibility to protect the environment with the economic realities of today’s business climate.

"Because of Ms. Peters' extraordinary efforts … Missouri will soon have a significantly better set of rules "on the books," said Carol Eighmey, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund. "These improved rules will reduce the risk of pollution from underground tanks."

Peters joined the Department of Natural Resources in 1999 and after a 10-month stint with the Department of Public Safety, returned to the department in 2006. She resides in Henley.

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Editor: Photos are available at http://dnr.mo.gov/newsrel/images/peters-eom-5-11.jpg