Environmental laws are some of the most prevalent and most commonly violated regulations applied to businesses. There are often statutes, standards and laws imposed at the federal, state and local levels. How can you maintain compliance with these ever-evolving regulations? In may be difficult, but it is important. Failure to meet standards can have big consequences for any business. Familiarizing yourself with the standards that apply to your field can decrease the likelihood of this, however, and give you the information you need to comply with environmental laws.
What Environmental Laws Are the Most Important?
Environmental law has received increased attention in recent years for many reasons. A greater awareness surrounding the threat of climate change has led to preventative measures being legislated, but environmental law in the United States actually originated from sanitary improvements that occurred at the turn of the 20th century. The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 has since become obsolete, but it laid the groundwork for modern environmental law. Its application was not directed specifically towards businesses as much environmental legislation now is. Today, there are several laws applied to businesses which are important to know:
•Clean Air Act: The Clean Air Act, or CAA, was passed in 1970 in order to curb the release of harmful pollutants from cars and buildings. Businesses that deal with automobiles, produce emissions, manufacture products or handles hazardous chemicals are most commonly affected.
•Clean Water Act: Like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act of 1972 was passed to prevent pollution. Also known as the CWA, it prohibits the release of pollutants into navigable waters such as rivers and inlets. Businesses that do this are now required to apply for a permit if they need to expel waste via waterways.
•Resource Conservation and Recovery Act: This law, also known as the RCRA, expands the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to regulate the management of hazardous waste. Any company that creates, moves or discards of materials considered hazardous must adhere strictly to these standards.These are some of the most common acts businesses should maintain awareness of and compliance with.
What Kinds of Businesses Are Typically Regulated Under These Laws?
Most environmental laws are concerned with mitigating pollution caused by businesses. Nearly any business is capable of producing pollution, so all businesses are subject to regulation, but there are some sectors that may be more likely to fall under scrutiny. If your business involves any of the following, you should exercise care in your operations:
•Manufacturing: Manufacturing with materials such as plastic accounts for a large portion of toxic emissions. If waste is not handled correctly, it can also cause harm.
•Cleaning: Cleaning businesses typically use a variety of chemicals to achieve results, so it is no wonder why they are subject to additional scrutiny. To maintain compliance, you should use safe products and dispose of waste carefully.
•Waste treatment: Waste treatment and disposal companies are, of course, regulated strictly by laws and agencies. If you work in this line of business, you must control all aspects of operation to ensure waste is safely treated and disposed of.
•Food: There are plenty of opportunities for food production, especially corporate farms, to cause pollution and create unsafe waste. Like other industries, emissions must be limited and waste should be handled properly.
Common Environmental Law Violations and Consequences
With as many regulations as there are, violations can result from simple oversights. Improperly disposing of waste, spilling oil, surpassing caps on emissions and unintentionally littering are a few of the ways you may violate laws. For lesser offenses, consequences may range from fines to citations, but significant mistakes can result in legal action. Any sector that involves chemicals, emissions, waste or recycling is subject to scrutiny under environmental laws. Becoming familiar with these regulations and their application to your work is the best way to prevent violations.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.