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Becoming a Subject Matter Expert in Air/Water/Waste

Jill C. Burris is an environmental compliance manager, strategist, and subject matter expert who utilizes the broad-picture experience for achieving environmental compliance. After spending fourteen (14) years working in all media (air/water/waste) of the Texas environmental compliance agency (first the Texas Water Commission, then the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, then the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality), Jill has learned how to prepare a company for market growth through strategic permitting and strategic waste management. She understands how to “work” the different departments within the Agency to achieve the client’s wishes in a more expedient timeframe.

Jill reached Senior Investigator status in each media through conducting complex investigations primarily in chemical plants and refineries. In order to attain the Senior Certification, an inspector must perform inspections that involve each media’s most difficult types of engineering and complex regulations, carry an overfull workload, a full enforcement load, and demonstrate a thorough understanding of the regulations, permitting, and the intent of each promulgated rule. It takes several years for an inspector to achieve “Senior” status in a single media, and some media require more years than others. For Jill, once she attained the Senior Certification in the first media of Water and felt she was no longer learning anything new, she applied for and obtained a position in the next media, and several years later another move. By moving from one section to another, an inspector loses out on the opportunity for a raise for two years, gets the worst office, the broken chair, the slow computer, and the least desired phone duty schedule. This alone puts off most people from trying to make the most of the learning opportunity of working for a governmental agency. However, she saw the bigger picture of learning all facets possible of regulatory compliance by moving through every section. To date, Jill is the only investigator in Texas agency history to achieve "Senior" status in every media.

The bigger picture was ultimately a move into private industry with the ability to recall and use all the regulations in an instant. This ability has served her well, and ultimately, her clients. Because of these years in the regulatory agency, she has an encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of all US air, water, and waste environmental regulations and laws. She sees the “big picture” for each clients’ facility, providing a unique ability to build a strategy for compliance, permitting, remediation projects, waste disposal, and mergers and acquisitions. In a nutshell, she knows which regulations actually apply to a site, which do not and why, which are we stressed more than others, and which are more dire when a facility is facing legal action. Jill always brings a “no nonsense” approach to compliance, permits, remediation, and environmental process implementation. “No nonsense” could include handling a waste to fall more strategically into one set of regulations than another, challenging and receiving agreement from the TCEQ to remove permit conditions that are too cumbersome or maybe irrelevant to a facility, or recommending process changes that are easy to handle and make sense. Jill knows that if changes at the field level are not easy to implement and convenient to use, most field staff will not adopt them.

Professional History Globally

Jill went into the field of Oil and Gas upon leaving the TCEQ, first as the global manager of the Environmental Compliance and Permitting Department at the Halliburton Energy Services company, then took on the added responsibilities of the global Remediation and Treatment Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF) departments.

After several years, Jill was hired on to another global Oil and Gas waste disposal company, now defunct, based out of Canada. This was to start and build an environmental compliance section for an existing company after it had existed for many years.

For a short time, Jill returned to the industry of the Houston Ship Channel before deciding to start her own consulting business.

As a Gifted Trainer

Though Jill is a subject matter expert in Air / Water / Waste, and Oil and Gas regulations, she is also a gifted trainer on environmental regulations. This comes from understanding both sides of the law – what is required to meet the training regulations, and what pieces are important for site staff to know to be competent in their environmental jobs. As a former director and global manager of environmental departments, Jill knows that time is a very limited resource in an environmental department, and time that employees spend away from their facilities to attend training had better bring high value and immediate results related to their specific current jobs. Based on this philosophy, Jill designs trainings for specific topics, specific industries, or specific companies. Why waste employees’ time learning regulations or responsibilities that will never apply to their site or their positions?

During Jill’s years in the Waste Section, she was invited to join two other Texas agency inspectors on a multi-state collaboration of EPA Region 6 committee members for organizing, and often presenting, the annual EPA Inspector Training. For six years, Jill not only participated in selecting the technical regulatory topics, but as a multi-media inspector, she also taught several of the sessions each year. For the topic of when hazardous waste becomes exempt under the Clean Water Act, and the associated units that meet the exemption, she was not only asked to present for the EPA Region 6 training each year, but was invited to travel to other non-governmental conferences around the US to present this tricky topic of waste-to-water exemption. After leaving the Waste Section and moving to the Air Section, she was asked by the EPA Enforcement Section Chief to remain on the committee, but handle the air training. While on this committee, some of her annual training presentations were “How to Build a Refinery,” giving the explanation of breaking down the pieces that make-up a refinery and the “How” and “Why” the “cuts” are made. Another technical topic explained the organic chemical reactions of an ethylene dichloride plant and how to regulate it.

As an Auditor

Auditing, Inspecting, Compliance review, whatever you name it, Jill is a master at identifying the non-compliances at your facility from every set of regulations. Because she knows the regulations by memory, she is not confined to a limited checklist when reviewing your site. While at the state regulatory agency, she quickly became a top inspector in each media, frequently being used by management to “crack” target facilities – those known to have significant issues, but also known to hide them at all costs. As Jill is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) in Air / Water / Waste, she can easily identify most environmental compliance issues on the first walk through the site.

As a state inspector, Jill won two EPA National Inspector Awards, before withdrawing her name in subsequent years after multiple nominations. Each nomination and award were for inspections involving complicated sites, with technical regulations, and hidden issues.

Into the Criminal World

While at the state agency, Jill was loaned to the Houston Police Department’s Environmental Crimes Unit to assist the officers in learning technical details of the regulations, and assist in preparing search warrants. As part of the assistance, she conducted interviews of suspects during the search warrants. As the cases progressed through the system, Jill also assisted the Harris County District Attorney, Environmental Crimes Section Chief in the prosecutions. Initially, she assisted as a fact witness, then several times as an expert witness, then finally for several years as a technical assistant to the prosecutor. Please check out one of the stories associated with what she feels is the most important case she ever handled in the “Successes” Section of this webpage.