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Environmental Regulations for Small Businesses

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put the following acts in place to oversee and regulate the impact that businesses have on the environment:

  • the Clean Air Act
  • the Clean Water Act
  • the Safe Drinking Water Act
  • the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
  • the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
  • the Pollution Prevention Act
  • the Toxic Substance Control Act.

Each of the above acts has specific regulations and requirements that businesses must follow, and a review of each is important for all small business owners. However, the EPA's regulations are often difficult to understand if not broken down into simpler terms and practical applications.

For that reason, many small business advocacy groups have lobbied to create laws and restrictions to protect small businesses while continuing to regulate their impact on the environment.

The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) and the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) were both enacted to provide small businesses with the flexibility and clarification necessary to comply with government standards. As a small business, it is helpful to understand these acts and the rights that they provide.

Primary aspects of the acts are:

  • Subtitle A — Regulatory Compliance Simplification. Requires the agency to publish Small Entity Compliance Guides written in plain language that explain the actions a small entity must take to comply with a rule or group of rules.
  • Subtitle B — Regulatory Enforcement Reforms. Requires the agency to support the rights of small entities in enforcement actions, specifically providing for the reduction, and in certain cases, the waiver of civil penalties for violations by small entities.
  • Subtitle C — Equal Access to Justice. Provides small businesses with expanded authority to go to court to be awarded attorneys’ fees and costs when the agency is found to have been excessive in enforcement of federal regulations.
  • Subtitle D — Regulatory Flexibility Act Amendments. Provides small entities with expanded opportunities to participate in the development of certain regulations.
  • Subtitle E — Congressional Review of Agency Rulemaking. The agency generally must provide Congress and the General Accounting Office with copies of all final rules and supporting analyses. Congress may decide not to allow a rule to take effect.

In summary, a small business is offered the means by which to easily understand the regulations, waivers and court help when appropriate, as well as the opportunity to participate in the creation and approval of regulations.

In addition, the government has set up helpful Compliance Assistance Centers to aid small business owners in understanding and complying with the regulations that pertain to their particular industry.

To find links for your specific sector, visit the Compliance Assistance Centers page, accessible through the EPA’s Web site.

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