You are no doubt aware that the US Environmental Protection Agency is serious about enforcing its regulations in order to live up to its mandate to protect the environment. The Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) within the US EPA is tasked with carrying out this enforcement through a variety of measures. From its website, the OECA… “aggressively goes after pollution problems that make a difference in communities through vigorous civil and criminal enforcement that targets the most serious water, air and chemical hazards. OECA also advances environmental justice by protecting vulnerable communities.”
How do they do this? Again, from its website: “Through improved transparency and community participation, we are enlisting the public’s assistance to ensure compliance nationwide, and that no entity enjoys an unfair economic advantage from noncompliance with the nation’s environmental laws.” It’s the reference to “…improved transparency and community participation…” that should be of concern to the regulated community. I am in favor of transparency. I think our businesses, government, and communities function better when we have equal access to public information. As a business, however, you should be aware that to a greater degree than ever before, information about your company – especially the results of inspections, investigations, and enforcement actions – are made available to the public.
One example of this is the US EPA Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results for 2011 Fiscal Year. This website contains a wealth of information about US EPA’s enforcement and compliance activities for the year just past. It includes a lot of bare statistics of interest that you may wish to peruse, but of more interest to the regulated community is the Enforcement Cases Map. Once opened, you may select or unselect the type of enforcement activities you are interested in, in my case “Waste”. The map will then reveal the location of all US EPA investigations that resulted in enforcement for violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Click on a location and you may read information about the site. Select “More Information” and you are taken to the US EPA’s website: Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO). Here you find a “Detailed Facility Report” which contains a snapshot of the facility’s compliance history with the US EPA, not just waste, but air, water, emergency reporting, and more.
It has been – and will continue to be – a priority of the Obama administration to make public information easily available to the public. As a business, you need to be aware of this reality and be prepared to take the following steps:
- Review any information about your company that is made public to ensure it is accurate. Make corrections if it is not.
- Communicate proactively with your neighbors, community, state, region, etc. to inform them of what you are doing to maintain your business within the limits of the regulations. Also inform them of any efforts beyond the regulations to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- Avoid violations in the first place by ensuring compliance with the regulations.
For this last point, I suggest you attend one of my EPA & PHMSA/DOT open enrollment training events. There, in one day, you will get a good understanding of the US EPA regulations for the management of hazardous waste and the PHMSA/DOT regulations for the transportation of hazardous materials.
If you have many employees to train, contact me for on-site training where for one flat fee of $1,749 for one day I can train as many as you need.