Small Business Compliance
EPA Announces Renewed Emphasis on Self-Disclosed Violation Policies (3pp, 138K, About PDF) (5/15/2018)
On May 15, 2018, EPA announced a renewed emphasis on encouraging regulated entities to voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, expeditiously correct, and take steps to prevent recurrence of environmental violations. Specifically, EPA is taking steps to enhance and promote: (a) its already highly successful online “eDisclosure” program; (b) the additional flexibility available to new owners who self-disclose violations; and (c) opportunities to increase compliance through use of existing self-disclosure policies or tailored audit programs.
To encourage the continued and expanded use of these self-disclosure tools, EPA:
- clarified several features of its self-disclosure policies in response to some common misconceptions in the regulated community. See Refresh statement;
- plans to supplement its 2015 eDisclosure FAQs, its 2007 Audit Policy Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and the 1997 Audit Policy Interpretive Guidance to address a number of additional issues that the regulated community has raised to EPA;
- is expanding its outreach and education efforts to the regulated community and other stakeholders concerning its New Owner Policy, and will supplement its New Owner FAQs and/or interpretive guidance as needed to address interpretive issues that arise during such efforts; and
- is developing a New Owner Clean Air Act Audit Program tailored to the oil and natural gas sector and focused on, at a minimum, tank battery vapor control systems, designed to help new owners to achieve prompt and cost-effective return to compliance.
On December 9, 2015, EPA announced that it is modernizing implementation of its violation self-disclosure policies by creating 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.