The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was put in place by former President Richard Nixon as a regulatory body charged with the task of conducting assessments, research, and providing education about protecting the environment. The EPA conducts audits to ensure that businesses and organizations are in compliance with the environmental laws enacted by Congress.
Being unaware of your environmental obligations does not absolve you from your responsibility to comply, which is why it is important for contractors and other professionals in the construction industry to understand what regulations apply to them and how to manage the risk associated with environmental laws. To mitigate exposure to EPA violations, our experienced Tampa contractor lawyers from Cotney Construction Law suggest conducting a self-audit to ensure you are operating within national and local environmental standards.
Determining the Scope of Your Audit
The first step in conducting an self-audit is to determine if a review of the entire facility or job site is necessary or just one area is needed. If you have an upcoming EPA audit, this will help determine which option is best, but you can also consult with a contractor lawyer in Tampa to gain further insight into what will be most beneficial to your business. Potential issues may be where you least expect them and it’s better for you to identify violations, not the EPA auditor. If violations are identified through internal discovery, your company may be protected from penalties under the EPA’s self-disclosure policies or environmental audit privilege and immunity laws.
While conducting a self-audit, it may be helpful to keep the following items in mind. Remember, it is important to thoroughly evaluate all areas of your operation and not limit your self-audit because of expected outcomes.
1. Are your your records up to date?
2. Are there any potentially hazardous air pollutants on site?
3. Are toxic air pollutant levels within state and federal requirements?
4. Are your waste management policies inline with environmental laws?
5. Are your employees EPA lead certified?
6. Are your containers properly labeled?
7. Do you have contingency plans, training records, and storage logs of waste material in place?
8. Do you have current records of shipping, inventory, and disposal of chemicals?
9. Do you have risk-assessments and crisis management plans in place?
10. What are your emergency response and incident reporting procedures?
What if you Find a Violation?
If you find violations during your self-audit, the first step should be to contact a Tampa contractor attorney who can help determine if your company can benefit from the EPA’s self-disclosure policies or environmental audit privilege and immunity laws. To qualify for protection under these policies, your business has 21 days to inform the EPA in writing of discoveries made during your self-audit. Your company must show cooperation with the government body by providing documents that identify the violation, access to the representatives who conducted the audit, assistance with investigating the violation, and any details regarding environmental consequences of the violation. In most cases, your company will be granted 60 days to correct the problem and show proof that steps were taken to prevent the issue from reoccurring in the future.
If you are in need of legal representation, please contact our office today at 813.579.3278 or submit our contact request form.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.