What is Environmental Compliance and Why Your Company Needs to Take it Seriously

Written By YellowBird
November 16, 2021

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Communities across the globe continue to struggle with the challenges of climate change. Adverse events like hurricanes, wildfires, and floods are increasing in intensity and frequency, often causing severe disruptions to businesses across a broad spectrum of sectors. Since ongoing environmental changes share a causal link to human activity, businesses are working harder than ever to address environmental concerns. Following all relevant regulations that govern pollution and hazardous waste in your industry is one of the most effective ways to ensure your company plays an active role in protecting the environment.

Environmental compliance includes laws and regulations that mitigate the negative impact of industrial activity on the natural world. By adhering to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compliance policies like the Pollution Prevention Act or Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, you can ensure that your company is doing its part to create a greener, more sustainable future for generations to come.

The efforts of businesses to reduce their impact on the environment is a critical aspect of establishing more sustainable solutions to today's most pressing ecological concerns.

What is Environmental Compliance?

Environmental compliance is a term used to define a series of mandatory standards that all businesses in the U.S. must follow. Here in the United States, the EPA is the primary entity responsible for overseeing and enforcing compliance standards related to the environment. Since its founding in 1970, the EPA has introduced numerous laws that help to prevent industrial pollutants from entering waterways, air, and soil. In addition, the EPA provides regulatory guidance for dealing with hazardous chemicals and solid waste disposal, among other areas of concern.

Here are some of the most groundbreaking pieces of regulatory compliance standards put forward by the EPA over the decades that impact the work of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) professionals:

The Clean Water Act

The EPA has strict standards regarding the release of environmental pollutants into U.S. waterways. State authorities work directly with the EPA to conduct regular inspections of companies involved in construction or heavy industry to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act. The primary purpose of the Clean Water Act is to prevent unpermitted pollutants from being released into local water sources like rivers or lakes.

Companies in the U.S. are responsible for implementing a comprehensive set of protocols to effectively monitor and control the discharge of pollutants that could potentially harm the environment. All EPA compliance standards and inspection criteria are outlined within the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System or NPDES.

The Clean Air Act

First enacted in 1970, the Clean Air Act outlines several identifiable airborne pollutants that can potentially undermine public health and safety. Companies that produce more than 10 tons of airborne pollutants annually are designated as “major sources” of pollution.

An amendment to the Clean Air Act in 1990 established the Maximum Achievable Control Technology standard, otherwise known as MACT. These guidelines define the minimum amount of emission reduction required for a specific business within a given industry. The EPA actively collaborates with local authorities to monitor the emissions of significant pollution sources and enforce applicable emission standards.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

The EPA also works with various government entities to monitor the production, transportation, and eventual disposal of potentially hazardous waste. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)defines how to store different forms of waste, including used oil, light bulbs, chemicals, and batteries. State or federal agencies work with the EPA to evaluate waste records, collect test samples from facilities, and review the hazardous waste plans of relevant businesses. The EPA has the authority to request information from hazardous waste-producing companies, including records or manifests related to the generation, transportation, storage, and disposal of waste materials.

Why Your Business Needs to Care About Environmental Compliance

Maintaining compliance with EPA standards is a legal requirement, but there are also ethical concerns that companies should consider. Businesses that fail to meet environmental regulatory standards risk undermining their reputation in the eyes of increasingly eco-conscious consumers who want to support companies that share their values. Likewise, many employees today are interested in contributing to a company that takes environmental issues seriously and actively participates in eco-friendly initiatives.

Records related to EPA compliance are searchable by the public and frequently used by insurance risk control professionals to get a snapshot of a company's environmental controls. The EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) site is easily searched by facility name and location, and provides details on pollution sources and enforcement cases and trends. Visit echo.epa.gov to try out the tool, it is very similar to OSHA's Establishment Search, but provides environmental compliance information instead of workplace safety compliance data.

Keeping up with environmental compliance regulations ensures that your company contributes to the collective task of minimizing pollution and fostering a more sustainable future for all. By ensuring compliance with EPA regulations, your business will continue to attract new talent and loyal customers well into the future. Aside from these key reasons, there are several additional benefits to following environmental compliance standards:

  • Cost Reductions: EPA compliance regulations provide a comprehensive framework for waste and pollution management that can make operational processes more efficient. Adhering to EPA standards also eliminates the risk of costly disruptions to business or hefty fines associated with non-compliance. For example, violations of the Clean Air Act can range from $9,000 to $356,000 depending on the severity of the violation.

  • Profitability: Businesses that consistently monitor their operations to align with EPA regulations earn more recognition and respect from the public, ultimately increasing a company's profitability. Engaging in environmental initiatives demonstrates that your company is fully committed to creating a better tomorrow, an undertaking many customers will notice.

  • Streamlined Workflows: Meeting EPA compliance standards improve the organization of your operations by maintaining accurate records of all activities associated with your company's environmental impact. The protocols your business establishes today will improve the efficiency of waste or pollution management in the future, creating faster workflows with fewer complications.

Why Your Business Needs to Care About Environmental Compliance

If you need expert guidance to establish better environmental compliance for your business, join our network today. Our platform helps connect businesses with experienced EHS professionals who have the extensive knowledge necessary to help you navigate the challenges of environmental compliance. YellowBird Professionals are knowledgeable on various EPA regulations mentioned above, NPDES permitting, wastewater disposal, and more. We'll find the right EHS professionals to perform environmental compliance audits for your business and to help you create an action plan that keeps your operations running smoothly -- and legally.

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