Environmental Audit Program

Environmental auditing is a process of examining a facility to determine how well its operations are complying with local, state and federal environmental regulations. This program encourages businesses and other organizations to conduct their own environmental audits and correct any problems they may discover. The intent of the program is to focus on the goal of achieving greater environmental compliance, rather than on fines or other penalties. In addition to involving more people in helping to protect the environment, the program also allows businesses to discover and correct minor problems before they become major liabilities, and, in most cases, to avoid enforcement penalties that might otherwise be assessed.

Any business or governmental unit that is regulated by an environmental law or rule in Minnesota can conduct an environmental audit, using either on-site personnel or an outside firm if desired. The MPCA provides free audit checklists to assist organizations in conducting their audits. After the audit, the organization must submit a report that includes a summary of the results, a schedule for any corrective actions that must be taken (subject to MPCA approval if greater than 90 days), and either a statement that pollution-prevention opportunities have been examined (for smaller facilities) or a certification that pollution-prevention requirements have been met (for larger facilities).

Generally, participants in the audit program are then given protection from enforcement fines or other penalties for any violations found, unless they are repeat violations or involve either criminal activities or activities that cause serious harm to the environment or public health. Audit forms need not be submitted to the MPCA (although they may be requested by the agency if there is probable cause to believe that a crime occurred), but participants should be aware that their summary reports are considered public documents and will be placed in the agency’s files, subject to public review under Minnesota’s Data Practices Act.

The Environmental Audit Program is designed to help both business and government work actively and cooperatively in protecting our environment. When a participant successfully meets the requirements of the program, that facility can display a “Minnesota Green Star” award for a period of two years after completing the audit and any required corrective or cleanup work. For more information and/or copies of fact sheets and checklists, call the MPCA or check the agency’s website at www.pca.state.mn.us and look under Waste/Waste Prevention/ Environmental Auditing Project, or Programs/Environmental Audit Program.

CREDITS: This is an excerpt from A Guide to Starting a Business in Minnesota, provided by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Small Business Assistance Office, Twenty-eighth Edition, January 2010, written by Charles A. Schaffer, Madeline Harris, and Mark Simmer. Copies are available without charge from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Small Business Assistance Office.

This post is also part of a series of posts on Minnesota Environmental Protection Programs and how they affect starting a business in Minnesota.