Importantly, environmental policies are reviewed and changed often. This means that your business may be impacted often, without you even knowing it! Having knowledge of what types of permits or approvals you need is critical. As a business owner, you first need to know if your practices trigger the requirements of any environmental laws for businesses. If you are not aware of these requirements, you may face lawsuits from the state or federal government or from private citizen groups. In these actions, ignorance of the environmental laws is no defense.

In the United States, businesses of all sizes are affected by environmental law and regulation. At the federal level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversees many programs that were created as the result of federal law. In Rhode Island, the Department of Environmental Management and the Coastal Resources Management Council oversee the state programs that are delegated to the state under federal law. Both the state and federal programs are the result of important environmental laws for businesses. Corporate entities should stay informed of the ever-changing regulatory regimes that apply to them so that they are not subject to penalties or negative publicity.

Environmental statutes run the gamut of environmental media, including air, water, hazardous waste and hazardous materials, coastal resources, wetlands, marine resources, to name a few. Further, land use law and energy/utility law fall within the scope of environmental laws for businesses. These are convoluted and complicated areas of law.   

Environmental attorneys are accustomed to dealing with these areas of law and know how environmental regulations pertain to them. A good example is called preemption – when a federal law regulates the same area/activity, any state law is preempted. However, where a state law is stricter than its federal counterpart, the state law will apply, unless there is evidence to show that the federal law was intended to preempt the state law. Having an experienced lawyer to assist with making that determination is a must for companies.

There is currently much debate about the costs associated with compliance with environmental laws for businesses. Certainly, some businesses must expend money and resources to complete an environmental audit to determine what laws and regulations affect them and, then, how to comply with them. However, the economic and health benefits associated with environmental protection exceed the costs attributed to compliance.

According to the USEPA, the Clean Air Act:

  • “Avoided more than 160,000 premature deaths, 130,000 heart attacks (acute myocardial infarction), millions of cases of respiratory problems such as acute bronchitis and asthma attacks, and 86,000 hospital admissions.
  • Prevented 13 million lost workdays, improving worker productivity which contributes to a stronger economy.
  • Kept kids healthy and in school, avoiding 3.2 million lost school days due to respiratory illness and other diseases caused or exacerbated by air pollution.”

Luckily, the USEPA maintains a webpage dedicated to environmental laws for businesses, called “Resources for Small Businesses,” available here: https://www.epa.gov/resources-small-businesses.

The lawyers at Desautel Law understand how environmental laws for businesses operate and advise businesses on a regular, consistent basis.

To learn more about environmental laws for businesses, call Desautel Law at 401.477.0023 today.

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