Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oops. I missed "Blog Action Day."

But I'm still scared shitless.

Okay, okay, I'll be honest, I really hadn't paid any attention to "Blog Action Day" until Robin mentioned it... Whups. I read her post from yesterday this morning, so I missed it by a day.

Since The Environment is something to write about that's not a cheese sandwich, I'll get my thoughts on the topic out here anyway.

Here in Oklahoma, when somebody wrecks a car that ends up too bad to fix, the insurance company pays off on that car and it goes to an Auction. The only people who can go through the gate and into that auction to buy those crashed cars are people with Salvage Licenses, they won't even let ya in to look at 'em without the Identification Card issued by the state of Oklahoma.

Getting and/or keeping a Salvage License in Oklahoma involves jumpin' through a lot of hoops -- there are way too many other licenses that are too easy to get, but the Salvage License folks run a tight ship. The Salvage License involves examination of city permits, record-keeping, storage of cars & parts, and most importantly, the EPA's certification.

The EPA is very, very concerned about what's goin' on in Salvage Yards, mainly because cars give off a notable lot of non-environment-friendly substances, and even more mean-n-scary stuff flies out when they're taken apart. One of the strictest requirements for a Salvage License (the only one tougher than the paperwork for tracking the purchase of each car for theft prevention) is meeting the EPA's requirements. The EPA requires us, as Recycling Facility Operators, to track where all those car-related substances go when they leave our hands. Used oil from motors, fluid from transmissions (or grease from the manual ones), anti-freeze and other fluids, batteries, old tires, refrigerant from air conditioners -- just about every drop has to be accounted for. They've even started a campaign to collect and recycle switches and sensors, like that little light that comes on when you open the trunk, because they contain Mercury.

The EPA collects stormwater runoff from Salvage Yards and tests it for any myriad of substances; essentially, just about anything that comes from a car had better not be left layin' on the ground anywhere that it might get washed off the edge of the place, and anything that gets collected in containers to be sold off or sent somewhere else had better have paperwork so they can be sure it's not just washin' off the edge of some other patch of land into some other creek. Refrigerant must be collected for re-use, not just released into the atmosphere. Batteries go to a certified bulk buyer, used oil is collected for pickup by licensed buyers, anti-freeze is filtered for re-use in other vehicles, like the delivery trucks, or lot cars, or The Twenty because we can't just toss all that stuff in the garbage can or down the nearest drain.

For years and years, the only people who could get their hands on those severely crashed cars were the Salvage Yards, because once the good stuff if re-used or re-sold, Salvage Yards have the means for collection and disposal of the goo that's left over.

When November First gets here, it's all going to change. The State Of Oklahoma has passed a new law doing away with those ID Cards, and starting with the first Auction in November, anybody with the cash or a credit card can buy severely damaged cars at the Salvage Auctions.

I (and several folks from other Licensed Recycling Facilities) have several problems with this, but our phone calls and letters to elected officials were not enough to stop this law from getting passed.

FIrst, prices are goin' up at the auctions, and that's going to make it even harder for the folks who have been runnin' legitimate yards all this time. Money is what it's all about though, that's why the insurance companies had a much louder voice than Recyclers who were barely keeping their heads above water to begin with -- the insurance companies had the big bucks to spend on lobbying, and now they're going to make even more money from those auctions. Safety? Schmafety. If they cared about anyone's safety, they wouldn't have lobbied to take away one of the last safeguards against rollin' wrecks down the highway. If they cared about anyone else's money besides their own, they wouldn't be so quick to deny claims, would they? More Salvage-Titled cars on the road possibly causing more wrecks means they have greater chances of finding a reason to deny claims. Oh, and full-coverage insurance on a Salvage-Titled car? Good luck with that. And hey, what-do-ya-know, no full-coverage means no loans on 'em either.

Second, as the insurance lobby apparently did not consider, it's going to put the driving public at risk, 'cause now anybody can buy anything and attempt to put it back on the road whether they know what they're doing or not. Sure, some "totaled" cars can be re-built, but not all of 'em -- and everybody's got their own opinion on what it takes to be "too far gone," but who do you want making that decision for the used car you might buy and drive? A Licensed, Bonded Professional who's been in the business for several years, or some wanna-be-rebuilder who's just gotta sell this shitheap that he did a half-assed job on just to pay off the Visa bill from where he bid way too much on it without really lookin' it over?

Last but not least, where's all that stuff the EPA is watching for going to go? If that wanna-be rebuilder is bangin' away on that wreck in his garage and washing the mess down the driveway, it's going straight into the storm sewer or into the backyard to seep into the neighbor's yard or the creek; but the EPA isn't watching the houses, they're watching the Salvage Yards. Sure, the work-at-home rebuilders may think they're being careful and covering all their bases; but are they going to show up at their local "household pollutant collection event" to hand over a dozen half-mashed car batteries? Probably not; they'll just dump all of that stuff wherever they think they can get away with it, 'cause hey, the EPA won't see 'cause they're too busy keeping an eye on those evil scary Salvage yards.

I remember seeing a TV news show about shoddy rebuilders -- if you think it's a scary situation now, just wait!

The first time a wheel flies off something and bounces into my windshield at highway speed, the first time a car battery washes up on the swimming beach at the lake, the first time a trash truck mashes the garbage and squeezes out a gallon or so of nasty used motor oil, I'm callin' up Stone Phillips and the folks at 20/20.

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