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Small Business Compliance

EPA posted updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Audit Policy Program. The updated FAQs were developed as part of EPA’s renewed emphasis on its self-disclosed violations policies. The updated FAQs supersede the 1997 Audit Policy Interpretive Guidance, The Audit Policy: Frequently Asked Questions 2007, and the 2015 eDisclosure FAQs.

On December 9, 2015, EPA modernized the implementation of its violation self-disclosure policies through the creation of a centralized web-based eDisclosure portal to receive and automatically process self-disclosed civil violations of environmental law. Under the automated system, large and small businesses will quickly be able to get some of their more routine types of disclosures resolved.  

The Small Business Compliance Policy(5 pp, 256K, About PDF) promotes environmental compliance among small businesses (those with 100 or fewer employees) by providing incentives to discover and correct environmental problems. EPA will eliminate or significantly reduce penalties for small businesses that voluntarily discover violations of environmental law and promptly disclose and correct them. This Policy implements section 223 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. (Additional Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act Information).

Making a Voluntary Disclosure under EPA’s Small Business Compliance Policy

An entity has 21 days from the time it discovers that a violation has, or may have, occurred to disclose the violation in writing to EPA.  Discovery is when any officer, director, employee or agent of the facility has an objectively reasonable basis for believing that a violation has, or may have occurred. Entities must make their disclosures to EPA through the eDisclosure system. 

A wide range of resources are available to help small businesses learn about environmental compliance and take advantage of the Small Business Compliance Policy. These resources include:

  • EPA Small Business Resources Information Sheet, training, checklists, compliance guides, mentoring programs and other activities.
  • Businesses with more than 100 employees may be eligible for the Policy on Incentives for Self-Policing, known as the Audit Policy, which also provides potential penalty reductions for voluntary discovery disclosure and correction of environmental violations.

Businesses can find more information through these Web-based resources:

  • EPA's Small Business Ombudsman's office serves as a conduit for small businesses to access EPA and facilitates communications between the small business community and the Agency. The Office reviews and resolves disputes with EPA and works with EPA personnel to increase their understanding of small businesses in the development and enforcement of environmental regulations.
  • Compliance Assistance Centers address real world issues in plain language. Through Web sites, telephone assistance lines, fax-back systems and e-mail discussion groups, the Centers help businesses, local governments and federal facilities understand federal environmental requirements and save money through pollution prevention techniques.