Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Environmental Compliance Primer for Senior Federal Managers

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Environmental Compliance Primer for Senior Federal Managers

Article excerpt

Senior federal managers especially those who have federal facilities under their direction have the responsibility to ensure that activities occurring at these facilities comply with numerous federal, state, and local environmental requirements. This is especially significant during times of fiscal restraint when trying to justify expenditures for environmental compliance along with competing programs tied to organizational missions. Selected federal environmental statutes and Executive Orders are briefly reviewed and the possible consequences if they go unheeded. Actions such as the implementation of environmental management systems and environmental auditing programs are recommended to assist senior federal managers in successful environmental management and to minimize their environmental liability. Finally, suggested resources are given for further information on environmental management at federal facilities.

It is often beneficial to remind senior federal managers, and especially those who do not have the benefit of an environmental background, about why environmental compliance is important. This is important especially during periods of fiscal restraint because, like their counterparts in the private sector, senior federal managers must balance scarce resources among competing programs tied to their organization's missions. Senior federal managers must also realize that compliance with environmental laws is part of the business of government and is part of fulfilling their public trust responsibilities.

Environmental Requirements

Environmental requirements are a complex system of statutes, regulations, and guidelines. Federal agencies, just like private industry, are required to comply with numerous federal, state, tribal, and local environmental requirements. In addition, for federal agencies, environmental requirements may be established by Executive Order from the President (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 1999a).

Federal environmental laws allow states to develop their own programs to carry out the law. When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that a state program meets federal requirements, EPA approves that state's program. Such programs are called delegated or approved programs. Under this arrangement, the states apply the national standards and regulations by issuing and enforcing their own regulations and issuing their own permits. In general, state governments carry out the bulk of environmental enforcement actions and perform the majority of environmental inspections. While senior federal managers are not expected to know the details of environmental laws and regulations, they are expected to ensure that facilities under their jurisdiction are in compliance. Environmental requirements that affect federal facilities range from federal statutes and their implementing regulations to state and local laws and ordinances. A federal agency cannot hope to meet its regulatory requirements without direct involvement of its senior management.

Federal Facilities and Their Operations

There are approximately 14,000 environmentally regulated federal facilities nationwide (EPA, 2000a, pp. 5-6). However, when discussing the entire community of federal facilities, it is important to recognize that not all federal facilities are owned and/or operated by the federal government. At many federal facilities or public lands other parties (for example, contractors, concessionaires, and other federal agencies) may perform these functions, that further complicate questions pertaining to jurisdiction. This poses additional concerns for senior federal managers. The range of federal facility operations across the federal government is vast. Some federal facilities may be engaged in large-scale manufacturing and industrial type activities. Others may be involved in activities such as vehicle fleet management, construction, building maintenance operations, scientific and medical research, material storage and shipment, and so forth. …

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