Environmental Audit Immunity Extended in Ohio

As an incentive for facilities to come into compliance with environmental laws, the federal EPA and many states offer self-audit privilege and self-disclosure immunity.  This means that, with a few exceptions, the results of that audit cannot be used against you, do not become public record, and as long as you make expedient efforts to come into compliance, lead to eliminated or reduced fines or penalties.  Immunity can provide protection from enforcement while you remedy an environmental violation and get back on the right track.  Ohio’s program, summarized in Ohio Revised Code 3745.71 and 3745.72, was set to expire on January 1, 2014.  Thanks to Ohio Senate Bill No. 59, the sunset on immunity has been removed and the program is extended indefinitely.

The federal program would apply to federally regulated programs, such as SPCC.  If you suspect that you may have been over the threshold quantity of oil that would trigger the need for an SPCC program, perform a self-audit.  If your self-audit confirms this, disclose the information as described in the following link, and implement an SPCC program within the time frame described there.

Region 5 Enforcement and Compliance –  Self-Disclosures, Environmental Audit Policies and Laws

Programs such as air permitting, storm water permitting, and hazardous waste are typically delegated to states to regulate.  For example, suppose you own or operate a facility in Ohio and have wondered whether some of the air pollution sources at your plant should be permitted.   The immunity program, described at the following link, would instruct you on conducting the audit, disclosing the results, and correcting any violations or deficiencies found.

State of Ohio Environmental Protection Agency – Audit Disclosure Response Protocol

Tips:

  • Keep in mind that some programs may be regulated at both the federal and state level.  Using the SPCC example again, some states may have an organization that oversees that.
  • Check with your particular state before beginning  your self-audit.  For example, Michigan requires a Notice of Intent to be filed prior to performing the self-audit.
  • Check the website for any items that are excluded from immunity.
  • Contact us for assistance with your environmental issues.