Many states, including New Hampshire, have laws in place that encourage the self-reporting of environmental violations. The United States Environmental Protection Agency also has a policy that deals with self-reporting. Voluntary disclosure of non-compliance can offer several significant advantages. However, each situation must be evaluated and managed.
Based on the specific facts, entities that self-report non-compliance may be entitled to receive a substantial, and possibly complete, reduction in the civil or administrative portion of any penalty. For example, in one recent State air compliance matter, the New Hampshire Attorney General's office specifically acknowledged the importance of self-reporting and indicated that cooperation and responsiveness in that matter resulted in a significant penalty reduction from what might otherwise have been assessed.
Determining how and when to self-report environmental violations is an exercise that requires care. In order to meet the requirements of federal and certain State audit privilege policies, specific information must be provided and entities must adhere to strict deadlines. Some care must also be taken to determine whether a particular violation is one that can or should be reported under a given audit policy. Information also should be handled to ensure that appropriate legal privileges are established and maintained throughout the entire process.
Generally, identifying and self-reporting environmental problem is a good corporate policy that may offer substantial benefits. The key to accessing those benefits is to be proactive about compliance and to be careful about how information is developed and managed.