To disclose or not to disclose, that is the question. Although self-disclosure will bring the matter to the Environmental Protection Agency’s attention, it is a great mechanism for reducing penalties for any enforcement action the EPA might bring.
The EPA’s audit policy was issued in 2000. It offers penalty mitigation and other incentives for companies that discover, promptly disclose, and expeditiously correct environmental violations, as well as take steps to prevent future violations.
The EPA now uses an automated system, eDisclosure, for self-reporting violations. In general, companies must report violations within 21 days of discovery and resolve them within 60 days, although extensions are readily given for returning to compliance to avoid penalties.
The EPA categorizes disclosures as Tier 1 or Tier 2. Only Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) violations are covered by Tier 1. Under Tier 1, eligible disclosures will automatically receive an electronic Notice of Determination (eNOD) confirming that the violations are resolved with no assessment of civil penalties, conditioned on the accuracy and completeness of the submitter’s certified eDisclosure.