Small businesses have the opportunity to communicate regulation-related concerns to the government through the Small Business Ombudsman (SBO). An ombudsman is a problem solver who works as a mediator in order to provide reliable information and resolve concerns from all parties. A small business can contact the SBO assigned to their area of concern and become involved in not only obtaining accurate and up-to-date information, but also in altering regulations to better address the concerns of the small business community.
How does the SBO work?
Each SBO represents only one specific area of environmental concern (i.e., asbestos). The SBO serves as a liaison between the affected small business community and the Working Groups writing regulations for the EPA. The SBOs often serve on the Working Groups as an advocate to keep the impact (or potential impact) of the proposed regulation at the forefront of discussion. If at any point a small business feels that a regulation being discussed — but not yet enacted — is unfair, the business can address concerns to the SBO who will advocate for the business’ needs in the Working Group.
If there is a regulation that a small business deems unfair, the SBO is still the one to contact. In this case, though, the SBO will address the specific concerns by first making sure the business has a good understanding of the regulation. The SBO will then take the small businesses concerns to the EPA and begin to address modifications based on the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), which calls for a level of flexibility when addressing small businesses and their individual needs.
What kinds of needs does the SBO typically address?
The SBO receives many calls requesting information on the following types of subjects: Clean Air Act regulations, underground storage tank notification, waste minimization, and pesticide registration fees. In addition to requests for information, the SBO fields and addresses each business’ calls regarding concerns of fairness in regulatory requirements. On average, the SBO fields over 2,500 calls over a six-month period.
Why an SBO?
Small businesses can access all regulations, laws, and proposed laws/regulations through the Federal Register. Often, though, a small business does not have the time or other resources to familiarize itself with the register’s contents. An SBO acts as an information source and liaison to aid small businesses in understanding regulations, and additionally is in place to encourage voluntary compliance to all EPA regulations. Finally, an SBO in place is important for small businesses as it allows the businesses to have a voice in the Working Groups that create regulations.
The more small businesses communicate with the SBO regarding their questions, concerns, and frustrations with the EPA regulations, the more the SBO will be able to aid the small business community in addressing its needs.