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Agreement will increase environmental compliance at Pa. Colleges and Universities
Donna Heron, 215-814-5113
PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced the signing of a self-audit and self-disclosure agreement with the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP ). The agreement encourages voluntary disclosure of violations found through environmental compliance self-audits.
“EPA believes it is important to improve environmental compliance at regional colleges and universities. This agreement sets up a system to encourage Pennsylvania academic institutions to perform their own internal audits, assess their environmental compliance and develop effective environmental management systems,” said Donald S. Welsh, EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional administrator.
Under this agreement, the 82 colleges and universities who are members of the Pennsylvania association are able to assess their environmental compliance, identify possible problems, disclose them to EPA and DEP, and voluntarily correct the problems.
Currently, 25 of the member colleges and universities have agreed to participate. The association will work with a professional environmental auditor experienced in conducting college and university audits.
“Many of Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities are on the forefront of research and development in some of the most pressing environmental issues of the day,” Secretary McGinty said during a signing ceremony at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “It’s only logical that these same institutions take on a leadership role in managing their environmental impacts.”
McGinty added “We hope removing the uncertainty surrounding such disclosures will result in more critical self-evaluations on a continuous basis and, ultimately, better environmental compliance.”
AICUP president Don Francis said today, “The association is pleased to have the support and encouragement of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DEP as we implement a program that provides a real common sense approach to environmental self-regulation on a campus.”
“The specter of fines, penalties and other harsh consequences has been lifted, allowing our members to proactively identify and correct processes on campus that either conflict with environmental laws or create unknown hazards for those involved. Over the next few years, volunteer teams of peer reviewers will be walking our campuses identifying areas where improved regulatory compliance can be achieved and they will do so with the full cooperation of the audited campus. The EPA and DEP agreement makes all of this possible.”
The auditor will train personnel from the participating colleges to perform audits for compliance with federal and state environmental regulations. They will then work as peer reviewers and assess campuses to identify areas where regulatory compliance can be improved. The use of peer review teams can improve the outcome of an audit by tapping into a range of knowledge and experience. It also promotes the idea that a self-audit is designed to assist and educate the institution being audited.
This agreement is possible through an audit policy developed in 2000 to encourage self-policing. The goal is not only the short term discovery, disclosure, and correction of environmental violations, but to put systems in place to maintain environmental compliance. Universities can qualify for penalty waivers under the audit policy. The policy substantially reduces, and often eliminates, penalties for violations discovered and corrected by a company or institution. This approach can also reduce or prevent pollution and can save money. The audit policy available http://www.epa.gov/compliance/incentives/auditing/auditpolicy.html.
The policy does not cover criminal violations, or violations resulting in significant harm to public health or the environment. EPA will also not waive penalties covering any economic benefit created by past violations.
In 1999, EPA established a college and university initiative because many institutions of higher learning were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws, or had failed to implement strategies to comply with these laws. In addition to inspections and appropriate enforcement actions, EPA held free workshops to help colleges and universities comply, and established a web site that provides information about their duties under the law.
Since then, several universities have found violations during a comprehensive environmental self-audit conducted in response to EPA’s colleges and universities initiative. The agreement announced today formalizes that process for AICUP members.
Attention Radio Editors: An audio sound bite is available at: http://www.epa.gov/region3/radionews.htm