The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops and enforces environmental regulations. Business owners are likely familiar with some of the more common regulations, like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. Other examples include the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act, Energy Policy Act, Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (also known as the Ocean Dumping Act), Shore Protection Act and Toxic substances Control Act.
These regulations apply to various industries and can impact every stage of business operations — from zoning and development to daily routines or the sale of a business. A failure to comply can come with civil repercussions and even, in certain situations, criminal charges.
How does the EPA ensure businesses comply with environmental regulations?
The EPA ensures compliance through two main efforts:
- The EPA conducts regular inspections and audits to better ensure operations are in compliance with applicable law. These laws vary depending on the business’ operations. The inspection can include a physical review of the property as well as interviews with site representatives and collection of samples.
- The agency can also receive notification of a potential violation from a tip or complaint filed by the public.
What if my business has violated an environmental regulation?
Voluntary disclosure is an option. The subject of the audit generally has about three weeks from the time it discovers a violation may have occurred to disclose the violation to the EPA.
It is important to review your options and move forward carefully as the repercussions can be severe. Following the agency’s requirements can be difficult as the rules are complex. In the disclosure option mentioned above, for example, the agency has strict rules regarding what constitutes as a voluntary discovery. A failure to meet this requirement can mean this option is not the right path for your business. An attorney experienced in this niche area of business law can review your situation and discuss your options, mitigating the risk of surprises and helping to protect your business interests throughout the process.