The Advantages of the EPA’s Self-Audit Policy

Posted on 11/12/2013 by James Griffin

The US Environmental Protection Agency has a system in place that allows you to reduce the civil penalty assessment for a violation of environmental protection regulations. Commonly referred to as the “Self-Audit Policy,” this system is officially titled “Incentives for Self-Policing: Discovery, Disclosure, Correction and Prevention of Violations.”

Details about EPA's Self-Audit Policy.  
Designed during the 1990s with input from the regulated community and the public, the policy rewards regulated facilities for bringing themselves into compliance with Federal environmental law and regulation. Since 1995, these incentives have led to the voluntary discovery, disclosure, and correction of numerous non-compliant conditions, allowing the US EPA to focus its investigation and enforcement efforts elsewhere.
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How the Self-Audit Policy Works
If you discover your facility is in violation of any Federal environmental law, you can notify the EPA that you know you are in violation and take positive steps to correct the situation. Because you self-reported your noncompliance, the authorities may choose to forego most civil penalties and are less likely to enforce a mitigation action or other punitive measures.
If you identify a noncompliant condition at your facility and want to qualify for relief from possible civil penalties under the Audit Policy, you must comply with the following nine conditions:
  1. Implement a compliance management system or environmental auditing program to systematically discover noncompliance. (Even if you don’t have a systematic self-auditing system, you can still obtain some relief if you comply with the following conditions.)
  2. The noncompliant condition must have been discovered by means other than the monitoring, sampling, or inspection procedures required by law.
  3. The noncompliant condition must be disclosed to the US EPA promptly, generally within 21 days from the day of discovery.
  4. The noncompliant condition must be discovered, and disclosed, before the US EPA or other party with authority would have identified the violation through its own investigation.
  5. The condition must be corrected and/or remediated within 60 calendar days from the date of discovery; in limited cases this timeframe may be extended.
  6. The regulated entity must take steps to prevent a recurrence of the violation.
  7. Repeat violations are ineligible. No entity may obtain relief under the Audit Policy for actions that constitute a pattern of noncompliance.
  8. Certain types of violations are ineligible for relief under the Audit Policy. Generally, those that result in serious actual harm or present the potential for imminent danger are ineligible.
  9. Lastly, the regulated entity must cooperate with the authorities during the correction period.
Copies of the Audit policy, the Audit Protocols for each major regulatory program, and other important guidance documents can be found in the EPA’s library.
Ensure your facility is in compliance with the EPA regulations that apply to your operations at the
Complete Environmental Regulations Workshop. The workshop covers critical elements of the EPA’s major programs: from air and water permitting rules under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to chemical reporting responsibilities under TSCA, and much more. The workshop is an engaging, effective introduction to the environmental regulations for those new to EHS compliance and essential for those seeking ISO 14001 certification. 
Do you have a self-audit system in place to make sure you stay in compliance with environmental regulation? Comment below.

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