Voluntary Initiatives and Programs
Collaboration, voluntary programs, and “partnership over conflict” are, according to EPA’s Administrator, the tools of preference at EPA to protect the environment and strengthen the economy in the 21st century. Many states and the European Community are adopting a similar approach. Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. knows how to take advantage of these opportunities in programs covering air, water, waste, Brownfield development, chemicals and pesticides. The results can range from easing the way through a regulatory morass to avoiding an enforcement action. These voluntary programs take many forms and address many different issues:
- The federal government seeks to encourage changes in product design and performance through efforts to identify and purchase "environmentally preferable products" and promoting its "extended product responsibility" concept of product stewardship.
- EPA's Project XL offers companies an opportunity to propose projects in which, for example, they commit to go beyond regulatory requirements in exchange for increased permitting flexibility or the chance to explore innovative environmental technologies with protection from enforcement if the new technologies fail.
- Labeling programs such as EnergyStar allow companies to use a special logo on energy-efficient electronics. Other countries have adopted broader "ecolabels" that may be used on products meeting specified environmental criteria.
- EPA's "Audit Policy" offers penalty relief to companies that voluntarily discover, disclose and correct environmental violations; many states have similar programs.
- States and municipalities are increasingly following the lead of European and Asian nations by encouraging manufacturers to take responsibility for their end-of-life products. Some companies and industry associations are implementing voluntary "take-back" programs to facilitate responsible recycling and handling of their products.
- Organizations have developed standards for voluntary environmental management systems, such as the ISO 14000 standards, to encourage systematic corporate attention to the environmental performance of facilities and products and to promote customer and public confidence in companies complying with the standards.
- Other programs target recycling, source reduction, waste minimization and reducing the use of toxic substances through process changes or development of low-risk substitutes.
For a complete list of EPA voluntary programs go to this link:
We have the experience and legal depth to help clients evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of such programs, to provide advice on program criteria, and to represent clients that choose to participate in voluntary initiatives. These are some examples:
- We have counseled a semiconductor manufacturer on the regulatory flexibilities associated with the organization’s Environmental Management System and supported and represented the company as a participant in EPA’s Project XL pilot program, including the negotiation of regulatory flexibilities with agency representatives.
- We have resolved favorably several matters in which clients on their own discovered that their facilities or operations were not in compliance with environmental laws. We were able to guide the client company through the Agency “audit policy” process in a timely fashion so that 100% of the potential penalties were mitigated.
- We have counseled a U.S. affiliate of a European automotive corporation on the design, implementation, and certification of an Environmental Management System in conformance with ISO 14001 integrating elements of the European Eco-Management And Audit Scheme (EMAS). We conducted executive presentations, employee training, intensive EMS project team mentoring, and a formal pre-certification audit. Additionally, we have drafted corporate environmental policy statements and represented corporations during certification and surveillance audits conducted by accredited registrars.
- We have also counseled a state environmental and natural resources agency in the design and development of a policy-based Environmental Management System in conformance with ISO 14001. This involved conducting training for the agency’s project steering committee on EMS design and implementation and developing an aspects identification and prioritization protocol. We assisted the agency in development of pilot program to implement EMS at key agency sites and divisions. Following implementation, the EMS was designed to allow a more efficient distribution of agency resources, and a more effective prioritization of regulatory and enforcement policies.