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University System of Georgia Signs Voluntary Agreement with EPA

Release Date: 11/21/2007
Contact Information: Kara Belle, (404) 562-8322, belle.kara@epa.gov

(Atlanta, Ga. – November 21, 2007) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 4 and the University System of Georgia (USG) finalized an agreement on November 13, 2007, which paves the way for the USG member institutions to conduct voluntary self-audits under EPA Region 4's College and University Compliance Incentive Initiative. The initiative's goal is for the self-audits to serve as the foundation for the 35 public colleges and universities and one independent research unit in Georgia to voluntarily achieve and maintain better compliance with environmental laws and regulations. Although not signatories to the EPA/USG agreement, there are approximately 150 other southeastern colleges and universities also pursuing voluntary self-audits under this EPA Initiative.

"Colleges and universities are part of EPA's regulated community, and often share the same regulatory responsibilities and experience similar environmental challenges as private industry and other government facilities," said EPA Regional Administrator Jimmy Palmer. "Through this compliance initiative, the voluntary self audits will help identify opportunities to solve many of their environmental challenges and save money over the long term."

Consistent with its mission of "Creating A More Educated Georgia," the USG serves over 270,000 students and manages more than 3,200 buildings across the state. Under the terms of the agreement with EPA, the USG will use external auditors and internal staff to voluntarily conduct self-audits across the system. This approach will allow the USG to efficiently share environmental expertise and best practices among the member institutions and continue to fulfill its role as an effective steward of state resources.

EPA Region 4's recent involvement with public and private colleges and universities began in 2002 with a Compliance Assistance Initiative. The centerpiece of this assistance was a series of workshops, designed to raise awareness and improve understanding of environmental regulations and statutes applicable to the educational sector. Potential environmental problem areas at colleges and universities include improper handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste; improper laboratory chemical storage; air quality problems; storm water run-off and wastewater discharge; inadequate underground storage tank management; dysfunctional sewage treatment facilities; and improper abatement of lead-based paint and asbestos. The workshops also highlighted pollution prevention tools and waste reduction opportunities that could save money, reduce waste disposal costs and help a facility go beyond compliance.

After several years of educating colleges and universities about their environmental responsibilities, the EPA Region 4 College and University Compliance Incentive Initiative was launched earlier this year to encourage voluntary self-auditing pursuant to EPA's Audit Policies. The Agency's Audit Policies provide incentives for regulated entities that voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, and quickly correct violations that would otherwise be subject to enforcement, including financial penalties.

For more information about EPA Region 4's College & University Compliance Incentive Initiative, please visit http://epa.gov/region4/ead/compliance/management.html#university.

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