The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a federal regulatory agency charged with protecting the environment and public health by writing and enforcing environmental regulations. These regulations cover various activities, from automobile emissions to hazardous waste disposal.
On a federal level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enforces compliance with environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The EPA also enforces compliance with similar state laws and regulations.
The Most Frequent EPA Violations
Not having an identification number is one of the most common EPA violations found by inspectors. Businesses can prevent this by applying early, preferably at least three months before operations begin.
Another of the most common EPA violations is improper waste disposal. These violations involve improperly disposing of hazardous materials, oil, or other contaminants. Improper waste disposal can damage plants and animals in the area and cause significant problems for local water treatment facilities.
EPA Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rules apply to contractors. The following is a list of the most common EPA RRP violations that you may be fined for as a contractor:
- Not posting an initial notification or final notice on the door
- Not using the proper dust containment methods
- Not using a cover sheet (plastic, drop cloth) to contain dust
- Not containing waste from demolition or renovation sites
- Demolition without a permit
- Applying lead-based paint without a license
Another serious offense that occurs frequently is improper storage of hazardous waste. Hazardous waste containers must be secured and appropriately labeled with the date they were first opened, the contents, and the date they need to be emptied. These containers should not be kept in areas where leaks occur or flammable materials are present.
Improper transportation is another of the most common EPA violations. Containers must be covered with a tarp or plastic sheeting, secured to the vehicle, and labeled correctly at all times when being transported off-site.
What Is the EPA List of Violating Facilities?
The EPA maintains a list of facilities violating environmental standards known as the EPA Notice of Violation Database. The list is updated regularly, with new facilities added and others removed upon compliance.
A separate list contains details about facilities that don’t appear in the non-compliance list but are still being investigated for possible violations.
Being listed on the EPA website can be bad for business and your reputation, so you want to avoid it. However, that’s easier said than done.
To avoid being listed, you have to know which regulations apply to your facility and how to comply with them.
Your company may consider compliance audits to identify potential issues before they become problems. Compliance audits from Alpha-Omega Training and Compliance, Inc. include an inspection by auditors who know what items are being reviewed by the EPA inspectors.
Our auditor will go over your facility and policies with a fine-tooth comb, identifying any potential violations of the regulations that apply to your industry and location. The auditor will then provide a detailed report of any concerns or issues and identify specific steps necessary for remediation.
The EPA Penalty Policy
The EPA Penalty Policy and the factors it discusses are intended to help regional and program offices and the regulated community understand the degree of penalties that businesses and individuals face if they commit certain violations.
The policy also helps minimize confusion about penalties so that it is clear when a penalty is appropriate. EPA officials use the Penalty Policy to determine how much of a penalty is needed.
The policy states that to impose a civil penalty, a violator must have:
- Violated current requirements in place by the EPA
- Been aware they were breaking EPA requirements
- Not corrected their behavior when addressed by the EPA
- Failed to make corrections in a reasonable period of time
When an organization violates EPA regulations, their willingness and awareness play an essential role in their potential penalties. Companies that make an honest mistake that results in EPA non-compliance may not face civil or criminal penalties if they correct it in a reasonable time.
If a company refuses to make corrections or shows willful non-compliance, it may be liable for damages and face legal repercussions. It’s important to correct all EPA violations as quickly as possible to avoid a penalty.
There are several EPA fines and penalties that are commensurate with the severity of the violation. These policies are essentially a scale based on how much harm is done by the violation. The scale ranges from $0 to $37,500 per day for each violation.
Can the EPA Shut Down a Business?
The EPA has a broad range of enforcement options at its disposal. These EPA enforcement options include fines and other monetary penalties. But can the EPA shut down a business?
The short answer is yes, under limited circumstances. However, the EPA doesn’t close businesses as its first option or even its second or third option. It only acts when other methods fail to correct violations of environmental laws.
Whenever possible, the EPA tries to resolve non-compliance problems through other means. The agency will issue a Notice of Violation (NOV) explaining the violation and allowing the violator to fix it within a specific time frame.
If the problem isn’t fixed, the EPA can issue an administrative order that sets a deadline for compliance and imposes penalties if that deadline isn’t met.
The EPA has the power to shut down a business, but it rarely exercises that power. It’s more common to see the agency issue a fine — and some EPA violations fines are extensive.
However, if the violation is particularly severe or the company has no regard for environmental law, the EPA can take action against a business that could result in its closure.
Our goal at Alpha-Omega Training and Compliance is to provide services and solutions that meet industry best practices and exceed your requirements to ensure an organization and its assets are working together at full potential.
We provide quality training and ongoing compliance solutions to help your company consistently protect employees, guests, and the public. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business flourish by staying compliant with all EPA rules and policies.