Ensuring that your company complies with the various state and federal environmental statutes and regulations is incredibly important. I say this because I have first-hand experience when companies are non-compliant. Environmental investigations are expensive, time-consuming, and may create negative publicity. This article focuses on environmental and
regulatory compliance in business settings.
Federal legislation like the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) are good examples of compliance programs. These laws resulted in an increased burden on corporate entities. As with all other statutes, ignorance of them is no defense to noncompliance!
Environmental and regulatory compliance in business means that the business must obey environmental laws and regulations. Monitoring of compliance is one of the key elements that the federal and state governments use for enforcement.
Companies can implement procedures to ensure compliance, such as:
- Self-monitoring strategies: inspector training, credentialing, oversight, and support
- Third-party audit on-site: initial inspections, evaluations, and investigations, permit review, data collection and review
- Third party off-site process: public records review, audit reporting, program coordination
The federal and state government offer certain incentives when environmental and regulatory compliance in business can be demonstrated. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) also offer auditing programs. These programs are aimed at encouraging facilities and businesses to discover and report violations.
EPA and DEM inspections are where businesses usually first interact with the federal and state government. Inspections are an imperative part of the government’s compliance monitoring programs, too. From a common sense perspective, the government cannot officially assess compliance otherwise. Both the state and federal government have inspection authority under the majority of their programs. If you’re a regulated business, you should expect an inspection at some point during your ownership.
So, what is an inspection? They’re visits from an agent of the state or federal government. Inspections occur at sites so that the government can assess environmental and regulatory compliance in business. During the inspection, the government agent(s) will interview appropriate site staff or representatives, take photographs, review relevant records and information, collect samples, and observe operations.
While some inspections are programmatic, others are in response to a complaint. Inspections are also completed to deal with specific issues like air quality in an area, review of an industry sector, water quality of a particular waterbody, or review of an ecosystem like a watershed. Some inspections are over in a few hours. The more intensive inspections can take weeks, where samples are collected.
Results of an Inspection
Environmental and regulatory compliance in business is a cost of doing business. As I said earlier, ignorance of the laws is no excuse. As a result, businesses should plan to properly adhere to environmental laws and regulations.
An inspection can result in a few outcomes. If a business demonstrates compliance, the government will likely not take enforcement action. However, if the government finds non-compliance, the business might be facing enforcement. Enforcement mechanisms include an order of compliance and monetary penalties. The order of compliance is deadline driven, and enforcement actions are costly and resource intensive. It is better to avoid such an action by taking steps to ensure regulatory compliance.
Desautel Law is well-versed in environmental and regulatory compliance in business. For more information about how we can help your business, call us at 401.477.0023 today.