As a business owner, it’s important to be up-to-date on all the laws that could impact your business and to ensure that your operations comply with all applicable environmental laws. This includes both federal and state laws, as well as any industry-specific regulations. Failure can result in fines, negative publicity, and even jail time. To help you avoid any potential problems, here are six federal environmental laws you might be failing to comply with:
The Clean Water Act (CWA)
The CWA regulates the discharge of pollutants into the nation’s waterways. This applies to businesses of all sizes, so if your company discharges any type of pollutants, such as stormwater runoff to sewage and industrial wastewater, into a river, stream, or other water body, you need to have a permit. However, there are exceptions to this condition, which primarily revolves around activities that aim to build or maintain structures designed to be near or within bodies of water, such as irrigation systems or farming ponds.
The Clean Air Act (CAA)
The CAA contains policies to deter air pollution. This includes regulating the release of emissions such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and lead. The CAA applies to all businesses that emit these types of pollutants, regardless of size. However, the most common ones include manufacturing plants, power plants, and certain types of dry cleaners. You must obtain a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if your company emits any of these pollutants. Moreover, the CAA also contains provisions that limit the emissions that businesses and vehicles are allowed to produce.
Pollution Prevention Act (PPA)
The PPA encourages businesses to reduce or eliminate pollution at its source rather than relying on end-of-pipe solutions such as treatment or disposal. The PPA requires businesses to develop plans and produce annual reports detailing how they plan and implement pollution prevention measures such as toxic waste reduction or using more eco-friendly materials. If your business produces large amounts of pollutants, then the more you must comply with the PPA’s measures. Failure to do so can result in jail time or fines. So if you were to find yourself in a bind with this law, you could find a local business law firm that can help you through the legal processes and protect your business interests.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
The RCRA explains the proper handling and disposal of hazardous waste. This includes substances such as asbestos, lead, oil, and pesticides. Suppose these types of waste were to be improperly disposed of. In that case, it can harm the environment resulting in long-term problems such as water contamination, soil erosion, and air pollution. This can also lead to health impacts in nearby communities. Businesses that generate hazardous waste must comply with strict regulations set forth by the RCRA. This includes ensuring that the waste is properly labeled and transported to authorized facilities for proper disposal.
The Emergency Planning Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)
The EPCRA requires businesses that use certain hazardous chemicals to immediately notify local officials in the event of a chemical emergency. The purpose of the law is to help communities plan and protect the general public from the consequences of chemical accidents such as fires, explosions, or chemical spills. EPCRA also stipulates that businesses must produce annual reports on handling, storing, and disposing of hazardous materials that can cause chemical emergencies. All these are essential for the safety of your local community. So if you’re not already in compliance with this law, you should take steps to do so as soon as possible.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
The CERCLA was initially enacted in response to a growing awareness of the dangers of hazardous waste sites. This act established a fund to clean up these sites and any other chemical emergencies that might occur. Moreover, it also created a process for identifying and punishing those responsible for the pollution. For instance, if your business is found to be responsible for contaminating a site, you may be required to pay for the damages. So if you are ever notified of an investigation or a lawsuit related to CERCLA, it’s important to seek legal counsel right away to protect your business interests.
When it comes to compliance, there are resources available to help you. Your local chamber of commerce or small business development center (SBDC) can provide information about specific regulations that apply to your business. You can also find helpful information on the websites of most federal and state environmental agencies. By taking the time to familiarize yourself with the relevant laws, you can ensure that your business is in compliance—and avoid penalties.