As the cremation rate continues to increase, many funeral home owners consider expanding their facilities and adding a crematory, rather than relying on a third-party cremation provider. However, the challenges presented by zoning boards, regulatory authorities, and the potential for community opposition can be daunting.
A funeral home in Maryland was issued an air construction permit by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to build a crematory in an office park. A neighboring business in the office park sued MDE challenging the permit. The Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in Maryland, recently decided determined that the permit issued to the crematory by the MDE was valid.
The case offers important insights for any funeral home seeking to open a new crematory:
The case was litigated for three-and-a-half years after MDE issued the permit; the crematory initially applied for a permit in 2011
The crematory had to redo its toxic air pollutant analysis, showing that emissions from the crematory would not endanger human health, several times. Ultimately MDE decided to had to perform its own analysis.
The neighbor, sought to prove that crematory emissions would harm its employees. The neighbor hired a well-known, national environmental consulting firm to perform its own pollutant analysis.
The Court’s decision turned on where to measure pollutants – at the perimeter of the office park (MDE’s position) or at the stack (the neighbor’s position). The case required a deep understanding of Maryland clean air act law and state administrative law procedure.
Although environmental laws in other states may be somewhat different, the case is instructive of the time and difficulty in proceeding and for that reason, important for anyone considering opening a new crematory.
For NFDA members considering adding a crematory, the association’s Opening a Crematory: Frequently Asked Questions for Funeral Professionals will help owners discern whether adding a crematory makes good business sense. It will also assist them with navigating the challenges of obtaining legal and regulatory approval from local and state officials. This guide is an exclusive resource for NFDA members and can be downloaded from the association’s website (login required).