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16 March 2016

Some thoughts on EPA’s self-audit policy and recent launch of an eDisclosure portal

Julie Hall 2015At the 108th Annual AWMA Conference and Exhibition last summer I heard a very interesting presentation by a lawyer on upcoming changes to EPA’s audit policy. I have always enjoyed presentations given by environmental lawyers, as they have a unique perspective on so many things – and are always quick to offer helpful “well, that depends” scenarios. The changes may have some interesting ramifications so I thought fellow environmental professionals might like to learn more.

Under the original self-audit policy (65 FR 19,618 published on 4/11/00 and formally titled Incentives for Self-Policing: Discovery, Disclosure, Correction and Prevention of Violations), a regulated entity can take advantage of certain incentives if they voluntarily discover, promptly disclose to EPA, expeditiously correct, and prevent recurrence of future environmental violations. Of course, there are a lot of specifics, including some that vary by state, which must be followed in order to benefit from these “incentives” and are discussed in detail on EPA’s Audit Policy webpage.

One of the most interesting takeaways I had from this presentation was that any issues that are part of “resolved” cases under the self-audit policy are publicly releasable under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This means that even though companies are admitting they did something wrong, anyone who is so inclined can dig up their dirt in the future.

So, why was this old topic being discussed at a 2015 conference? At that time EPA was developing the next-generation of the audit policy. In June, 2015, EPA offered an eDisclosure Portal Presentation showing its plans to modernize implementation of self-disclosure policies. This will not replace the current audit policy and facilities will still be allowed to process disclosures outside the eDisclosure system. The new eDisclosure Portal was launched on December 9, 2015 and EPA views this new portal as a more efficient process to disclose violations under the self-audit policy. They have also provided an updated eDisclosure information sheet dated December 2015.

I, for one, am going to keep an eye out to see how the system is going to work so I can advise clients accordingly.

What are your thoughts on voluntary disclosure and EPA’s next generation audit policy?

Julie Hall is a Project Manager in Cornerstone’s Cincinnati, OH office. She earned her degree in Chemical Engineering and has extensive history in air permitting and air compliance with clients throughout the mid-west.

Categories: Environmental Planning & Compliance
Posted By Julie Hall at 11:30 AM  |  No Comments on Some thoughts on EPA’s self-audit policy and recent launch of an eDisclosure portal

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