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How does the EPA monitor corporate toxic compliance?

On Behalf of | May 13, 2021 | Environmental Law |

As business owner or executive in the twenty first century, there are challenges you face that people in your position 100 years ago could barely fathom. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces copious federal laws aimed at protecting the environment from chemical contamination, especially at the hands of corporate entities.

Failure to comply with the toxic substances control standards brings severe legal repercussions that could torpedo any thriving business. It is critical to understand at least the basics of this legal schema to protect your business.

What does the EPA regulate?

The most important law under the EPA is the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The TSCA, enacted in 1976, is a federal law that delegates authority to the EPA. According to the EPA, the TSCA delegates authority to the EPA to “require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures.”

In summary, the TSCA transfers all necessary power to the EPA to completely regulate all toxic substances. The EPA can require testing and record keeping. It can create regulations and restrictions. It can enforce these rules.

Make no mistake. The Environmental Protection Agency is in charge when it comes to the use and emissions of toxic chemicals.

How does the EPA monitor toxic chemicals?

In 2016, the EPA released the Compliance Monitoring Strategy for the Toxic Substances Control Act, which lays out the strategy for how it will monitor this area.

There are four basic areas that the EPA focuses on:

  1. New and existing chemicals under the TSCA
  2. PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)
  3. Asbestos
  4. Lead-based Paints (LBPs)

There are six types of investigations the EPA will undergo for the purpose of monitoring compliance:

  1. Criteria-based inspections: An inspection of this kind will look at specific criteria for each focus area to make sure a building or company is within acceptable specifications.
  2. For-cause inspections: A for-cause inspection is an inspection resulting from the EPA having reasonable cause to believe that an entity is not within compliance.
  3. Information request letters: An information request letter (IRL) is a request for information from a company that will determine compliance. This can include emissions records, process information or any other information that could determine the involvement of toxic chemicals.
  4. Subpoenas: The EPA can issue a subpoena, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, to obtain any information it needs to determine compliance.
  5. Telephone inquiries: As the name suggests, the EPA can call a company to obtain information. This call does not constitute an official investigation, but it could be a useful tool for the EPA to determine whether a formal investigation is required.
  6. Tips and complaints: If someone calls the EPA with credible information about non-compliance, the EPA can certainly act on that information and investigate.

These are the general ways that the EPA initiates and conducts investigations into potential non-compliance issues.

It is critical that you work amicably with the EPA and do not try to hide any information, which could result in even further legal trouble. If you have been contacted by the EPA, make sure you work with an attorney experienced in environmental compliance issues. A skilled lawyer can help you protect your business and your future.

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