Environmental Protection Laws for Corporations

Not every corporation will be subject to environmental protection laws. However, if your corporation does anything that affects “the natural environment — air, water, and land — upon which life depends,” it will be.

Environmental protection laws are regulated for the federal government by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has ten regional offices www.epa.gov/epahome/aboutepa.htm. The states and tribes are responsible for issuing permits and for monitoring and enforcing compliance with these laws. Each state also has its own agency that handles environmental protection. You can perform a search with your favorite search engine to discover the environmental protection agency for your state by searching the term: your state [i.e., Alaska] environmental protection.

The EPA’s mission is “to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment air, water, and land “upon which life depends.” The EPA works to develop and enforce regulations relating to air, water, and land that implement environmental laws enacted by Congress. The EPA is responsible for researching and setting national standards for a variety of environmental programs, and as stated above, delegates to states and tribes the responsibility for issuing permits and for monitoring and enforcing compliance. When national standards are not met, the EPA can issue sanctions and take other steps to assist the states and tribes in reaching the desired levels of environmental quality.

The EPA’s Office of the Small Business Ombudsman serves as an effective way for small businesses to access the EPA and facilitates communications between the small business, the community, and the EPA. The Small Business Environmental Home Page helps small businesses access environmental compliance and pollution prevention information.

Federal and state laws regulate emissions, asbestos, hazardous wastes, discharge of waste, and other items that affect the environment. If the business of your corporation is conducted in such a way that it involves or produces hazardous wastes, discharges or stores waste water, or vents any type of emissions into the air, you will likely need a special permit.

If any environmental issues are present regarding your corporation or if you think any environmental issue is present or may be present, you should contact your attorney immediately.

Read “Environmental Regulations for Small Businesses” for more details in the EPA, and “EPA Compliance Guidelines for Small Business” for information on EPA Compliance Assistance Centers.

For more on licensing, regulation, and permits, read “Small-Business Challenge: Complying with Regulatory and Legal Issues.”