Small Business Compliance Incentives Policy
Date: July 1996 Contact: (207) 287-7881, or 1-800-789-9802
What is this policy all about?
This policy is a component of the Department's Small Business Technical Assistance Program (SBTAP). The SBTAP was established in May of 1994 to assist Maine's small businesses in complying with environmental regulations.
The intent of this policy is to provide small businesses with an opportunity to work with the Department to solve environmental problems while avoiding the threat of enforcement action for discovered violations. The Department is implementing and interpreting the policy in a flexible manner so that businesses can correct environmental violations without being penalized. The Department has already worked with small businesses under a similar interim policy that enabled these companies to correct environmental violations, such as operating without a required license, without a penalty being assessed.
The Department will not take enforcement action against small businesses for violations that are discovered as a result of a business voluntarily requesting assistance from the Department, as long as the violations are corrected within specified time frames.
The policy applies to violations discovered for the first time at a facility that has requested assistance and is working with the Department to correct the violations. It does not cover violations that are discovered as a result of DEP initiated compliance inspections, complaint investigations, or mandatory self reporting.
Are all violations eligible under this policy?
Certain violations are not eligible under the policy, such as: violations that have resulted in significant environmental harm or risk to human health; violations that may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to the environment or human health or safety in the future; and violations that currently present a significant human health or safety, or environmental threat. Violations that are criminal, not inadvertent, or that were not promptly corrected are also not covered. Violations of license conditions will generally not qualify for inclusion under the policy.
What is a small business?
A small business is a person, corporation, partnership, or other entity that employs 100 or fewer people (based on full time equivalents on an annual basis). A business that is owned by a larger company must include the employees of its parent company when figuring total employment.
Why does the policy only apply to small business?
Due to limited resources, small businesses often do not have environmental staff or consultants keeping them apprised of environmental requirements. As a result, the Department wants to encourage small businesses to come forward and seek assistance from the Department to bring them in compliance with environmental regulations.
Why has the Department developed this policy?
The policy was developed in response to Public Law 1995, Chapter 234-L.D. 928 "An Act to Encourage Compliance with Environmental Laws Administered by the Department of Environmental Protection". The policy is based on guidance from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which is encouraging all states to adopt similar policies in order to increase rates of compliance with environmental laws within the small business community.
The policy is consistent with the Department's emphasis on using education and assistance as tools for achieving compliance.
What are the benefits of this policy?
This policy has resulted in greater levels of compliance among the small business community. The policy encourages small businesses to utilize the Department as a resource for compliance and technical information by removing the threat of enforcement for inadvertent violations that are corrected within specified timelines. Increased levels of trust between the Department and the small business may lead to additional opportunities for pollution reduction through the use of pollution prevention techniques. Increased compliance means a cleaner environment.
Does this policy allow small businesses to "get away" with violating environmental regulations?
No. The policy requires all discovered violations to be corrected. If they are not, the Department may take enforcement action to compel compliance. Businesses that request assistance from the Department with compliance or technical issues are accepting responsibility for bringing their company into compliance. They are trying to ensure that their facility is operating in the best manner possible and in compliance with the law.
Does this policy weaken the Department's enforcement program?
No. Normal announced and unannounced compliance inspections of facilities will continue. Violations discovered during these inspections remain fully enforceable, as will violations discovered under this policy that are not corrected within specified time frames.
What are the timelines for correcting violations?
Violations must be corrected within 90 days. If it is impossible to correct the violation in the initial 90 day period, an extension may be granted through a written agreement with the Department. In order to be granted an extension, a business must demonstrate a good faith effort to correct the violation in the first 90 days. If pollution prevention techniques are used, the business may have up to 360 days to correct the violation.