Turning down the heat Featured

10:10am EDT July 22, 2002

Turning down the heat

The EPA modifies the Clean Air Act's Risk Management Program in hopes of cooling the regulatory burden of explosives and flammable materials.

By Richard S. Wiedman and Arnold B. Silverman

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently revised the Clean Air Act's Risk Management Program to reduce unnecessary regulation for companies that use explosives and flammable materials.

The EPA removed a number of chemicals from a list of substances that subject companies to the Risk Management Program. Most of the substances removed were explosives, flammable substances in gasoline that are used as fuel, and flammable substances that occur naturally in hydrocarbon mixtures prior to initial processing. The EPA deleted these substances from the list because the Department of Transportation already regulates them.

The Risk Management Program also excludes substances in transit. These program changes will benefit those companies that transport or use these substances in their production facilities.

EPA to owners of buried storage tanks: Don't forget the December 1998 deadline

The clock is ticking toward the Dec. 22, 1998, the deadline for owners and operators of underground storage tanks to upgrade, replace or properly close their tanks.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, tanks installed before Dec. 22, 1988, may not protect against corrosion, spills and overfills. Leaks in these tanks can release potentially hazardous chemicals into the soil and groundwater.

The EPA has already announced that there will be no extensions for the deadline since companies have known about the 1998 deadline for years and, according to EPA officials, it would not be fair to those who have already followed the rules and fixed their tanks.

The EPA offers booklets to provide more information on the requirements: "Don't Wait Until 1998" and "Financing Underground Storage Tank Work: Federal and State Assistance Programs." To order the booklets, call the EPA hotline at (800) 424-9346.

Unfair competition, trademarks and hidden codes

Companies may not be aware that their trade names or trademarks may be contained in hidden codes on the World Wide Web and may be causing them harm.

When a Website is created, there is more to the site than the graphics and text that appear on the screen. There also are other pieces of code called "meta tags" which are invisible yet readable by Web browsers.

They are composed of key words that may describe the site or the business. For example, some of the key words that would be part of a meta tag for Small Business News would be small, business, news, publication and Pittsburgh.

Search engines such as Yahoo! and Alta Vista scan meta tags to find matches to the key words that search-engine users submit when looking for particular information. The more "hits" a meta tag provides (often done by repeating words in the meta tag), the more likely that search engines will put that site toward the top of their list of results from a search.

A current case in federal court will soon provide some answers to the questions about the use of another company's name in meta tags. In Oppedahl & Larson vs. Advanced Concepts, Oppedahl is suing Advanced Concepts for adding "Oppedahl" and "Larson" into the meta tag of Advanced Concept's Website.

Oppedahl is a law firm, and Advanced Concepts creates Websites. When employees at Oppedahl used search engines and typed in key words "Oppedahl" and "Larson," Advanced Concepts' Website would appear on the list of Websites, usually before the law firm's own site. Oppedahl could not figure out why until it went to the site and discovered the multiple listings of its name in the site's meta tag (done by using the View pull-down menu and clicking on Source.

Oppedahl is suing Advanced Concepts claiming that (a) Advanced Concepts has no right to use Oppedahl's name in its meta tag, and (b) it intentionally used the words to draw users to its own site first, before going to the plaintiff's site, thus causing harm to Oppedahl.

Although no ruling has yet been made in the case, prudent companies should avoid improper use of other's company names and trademarks on their Websites and in meta tags. It also is wise for companies to be aware of instances in which their names and trademarks appear in other Websites by searching for their names and trademarks on the major search engines.

Legal Affairs is compiled by attorneys of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC, a national law firm based in Pittsburgh.