Complying with Environmental Protection Laws

Every business must comply with federal, state, and local environmental protection laws. That is true if you are a multi-billion, multi-national, and if you are a solopreneur working out of your home. Environmental regulations come in the hundreds, and new ones are enacted each year.

The Importance of Compliance

Even if you don’t know about a law or regulation, legally you are required to comply with it. This means educating yourself about how environmental laws, on every level, affect your industry and what your company does in particular.

Not complying, whether from ignorance, too little money, too little time, or carelessness can result in having to go to court or a heavy fine. You might be sued and have to pay those costs plus penalties. If the case is serious enough, you could possibly go to jail. Compliance is not negotiable.

When Are You Affected?

There is a range of business practices that are always regulated. These include:

  • If you release pollutants and contaminants into the environment, whether the air, water, land, or sewers.
  • If you store hazardous waste, transmit it, or transport it.
  • If you are in agriculture.
  • If you dispose of waste.
  • If you produce products that potentially might harm the environment in some way.
  • If you work around or will affect wetlands.
  • If you deal in any way with endangered species.

One of the most common reasons a small business needs a permit is protecting wetlands. Many state and local governments have regulations to protect them. Staying abreast of these rules takes time and effort on your part. It is crucial to do your research so you aren’t hit with heavy fines.

You Need Permits

Complying with environmental laws uses a lot of paper. Permits are required for a wide range of activities. The most common are:

  • Clean Air Act permits
  • Endangered species permits
  • Wetlands permits
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act permits

Be sure to leave ample time to figure out which permits you need, where to get them, to find out if you are eligible and to wait for their arrival.

Where to Get Help

Here are several helpful resources:

EPA Environmental Laws and Regulations

EPA Small Business Guide

State Environmental Laws

SmallBiz Enviroweb

Gateway to State Resource Locators

 Statutes and Regulations by Topic

Stay safe. Do your research and comply with all the laws. Be sure to be protected with business insurance. You will save your company, as well as the environment.