The state Department of Environmental Conservation has a new policy to encourage businesses to conduct voluntary environmental audits and reporting of pollution violations.
The Environmental Audit Incentive Policy, which will waive most penalties for those that report violations voluntarily, will take effect Nov. 18, DEC officials announced.
“This new policy not only demonstrates Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York Open for Business initiative, but it also encourages companies to responsibly audit their operations and return to compliance to avoid fines for violations,” said DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens.
The policy offers a variety of incentives to businesses, local governments and other regulated entities to audit their operations and prevent violations. It will waive most civil penalties for violations that are discovered and disclosed voluntarily.
Companies with a history of environmental violations would not be eligible. Repeats of the same violations and incidents involving criminal activity are also ineligible.
The highest incentives, including recognition and priority for the state’s technical and financial assistance, will be available to entities that enter into an audit agreement and make a formal, long-term commitment to environmental management and pollution prevention, a DEC statement said.
Environmental advocacy groups say DEC has reduced its number of inspections and become more reliant on self-reporting because of staffing cuts in recent years, and that led to the new policy.
“While the Cuomo administration is not responsible for the deep DEC staff cuts of previous administrations, the governor’s philosophy has been for his agency to do less with less, leaving it struggling to protect public health, safety, and our shared environment,” Dave Gahl, then interim executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, said in a report last month.
Business leaders support the policy change.
“This innovative approach supports and recognizes the private sector’s persistent adoption of environmental stewardship as a means to reduce costs, gain efficiency and move beyond compliance,” said Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State.