April 22 is Earth Day this year. Do you have to be concerned about environmental laws? It depends on what type of business activity you're engaged in.
When to pay attention to environmental laws
They can apply to your company if, for example:
- Your business is agricultural and you use pesticides
- You manufacture products with hazardous materials
- You need to dispose of paints or hazardous materials
- Your business experiences damage from a natural disaster or fire and you need to clean up your premises
Who controls environmental laws?
On the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees and enforces environmental laws. This federal agency has a scary reputation for strict policing of businesses and levying heavy fines for noncompliance. It does have a gateway for small businesses for programs and other assistance you may find useful:
- EPA Small Business Ombudsman (SBO)
- Small Business Compliance/Enforcement
- Small Farms and Businesses
- Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA)
- Small Business Innovation Research Program
- ENERGY STAR for Small Business
- Waste Regulations for Small Businesses
- Why Should You Care About Preventing Waste? Small Business Guide
There may also be state environmental laws you need to comply with. Find a link to the laws in your state by going to the EPA website and clicking on your location.
What should you do?
There are two good reasons to understand your obligations under environmental laws: to help protect the environment, and to avoid penalties and other costs for violation. Get the advice you need to stay compliant. Scientists, engineers, and attorneys can all be valuable resources for determining what steps to take.