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June 20, 2014
Audit Program Alive & Well
By Timothy P Fagan, Senior Legal Editor - EHS

It seems that reports of the demise of EPA’s Audit Program have been greatly exaggerated.  However, the agency is seeking ways to streamline the program, including how self-disclosed violations are submitted, processed, and resolved. 

EPA’s Audit Policy encourages organizations to conduct environmental compliance audits by providing incentives for discovering, disclosing, and correcting instances of noncompliance.  Incentives include significant reductions of gravity-based penalties, no recommendations for criminal prosecution, and no routine requests by the agency for audit reports.

Each fiscal year (FY) EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance prepares a National Program Managers Guidance to describe how EPA should work with states to enforce environmental laws and regulations.  In the FY 2013 version, the EPA stated that it believed that it could “reduce investment in the [audit] program to a limited national presence without undermining the incentives for regulated entities to do internal compliance reviews to find and correct violations.”  EPA’s position was based on:

  • Its belief that internal compliance reviews had become part of good management and had been widely adopted by the regulated community; and
  • Its finding that most of the violations disclosed under the Audit Policy were not in the highest priority enforcement areas for protecting human health and the environment.

However, despite discontinuing electronic disclosure and significantly limiting corporate audit agreements, the Audit Program remains viable and continues to accept routine disclosures.   In order for a disclosure to qualify for the Audit Policy incentives, it must meet EPA’s Nine Conditions of Self-Policing.

If you are considering conducting an environmental audit, carefully consider the benefits and risks, and be sure to take the time to develop an effective audit program.  These checklists may help:

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