As federal environmental laws and regulations become more stringent, colleges and universities are now being afforded the opportunity to self-evaluate their own environmental compliance to avoid financial penalties from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Many schools in the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP) have voluntarily signed agreements with EPA to conduct their own environmental compliance and self-disclose any violations. EPA developed the program to increase academic institutions’ awareness of, and responsibility for, their environmental compliance obligations and to offer them incentives to participate. Institutions that choose to do so and promptly disclose and expeditiously correct any instance of noncompliance will avoid any EPA investigations and enforcement actions.
Michael Nines, an in-house technical consultant for the environmental law firm of Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox, LLP, in Bala Cynwyd, PA, offers advice to universities and colleges. He said, “We encourage academic institutions to participate in this agreement with EPA. It is an opportunity for schools to remain proactive regarding environmental compliance obligations and demonstrate that they are committed to being environmentally responsible.”
Nines indicated key areas on which schools should focus during a self-audit, including:
• Waste management practices (hazardous and non-hazardous);
• Discharges to the sewer;
• Chemical management issues;
• Emergency planning and Community Right-to-Know;
• Toxic substances control;
• Air and water permitting; and
• Pesticide usage and management
Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox is also conducting confidential baseline assessments prior to the official peer review audit, thereby allowing schools to work with the firm’s attorneys and technical consultants regarding the applicable regulatory requirements and to correct problems and avoid penalties. Nines, along with the firm’s attorneys, meet with facility managers at the schools to assess their compliance with environmental requirements.
The self-audit agreement for EPA’s Region 3 (Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia) was created in January 2005 and Region 2 (New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands) just implemented the agreement this month. Additional information on EPA’s self-audit policy and protocols is available online.
Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox, LLP concentrates its practice in environmental law, land use law and litigation. It represents clients ranging from Fortune 100 corporations to small, privately held enterprises, both in the Mid-Atlantic Region and on a national basis. For additional information, call 484-430-5700 or 856-317-1299.