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Environmental Permits: Does Your Small Business Need to Comply?

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Environmental Permits: Does Your Small Business Need to Comply?

By JamieD
Published: July 13, 2009 Updated: February 17, 2011

Complying with business regulations often makes people think of labor and employment issues or financial and tax regulations but another very important aspect of regulatory compliance deals with the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes laws and regulations for businesses to minimize negative effects on our great planet. 

Do I need an environmental permit for my small business?
Many small businesses do require some form of environmental permit to operate legally. Consider if your business activity will release pollutants into the air, land, water or sewers, or if you will be storing, transmitting, or disposing hazardous wastes. If so, you will likely need an environmental permit. 
These permits are generally regulated at the state or local level. In some areas, you may not need a permit if the type/quantity of pollutant emissions is under a specific level. Check to see what your state environmental agency requires.
To learn more about environmental permits, check out Business.gov's environmental regulations guide for small businesses, which includes resources and tools to help you comply. 

I found my state's environmental agency, now what?
Each state has different compliance procedures and will display information in different ways. Once you have found your state's environmental website, a good place to start would be a section dedicated to permits, as seen on Massachusetts's website, or to business, as seen on Florida's website. Compliance information will be displayed in both of these places and many state websites are equipped with tools that allow you to file applications online.

Do I need to worry about environmental permitting in my county or city?
Yes. Because environmental permitting is generally regulated on state and local levels, you should be sure to check for both. Although your state environmental agency should be able to assist you with local regulations, check your state's county and city websites for specific questions.

Are there any federal resources that assist businesses with environmental permitting?
Yes. The EPA dedicates a portions of their website to laws, regulations, and guidance as well as businesses and non-profits.
Here you'll find information on general environmental compliance, industry specific regulations, protecting the environment in your workplace, and financial incentives that help promote environmental projects.

How do I know if there are permits that are specific to my industry?
Although environmental compliance is generally regulated on state and local levels, specific industries often have similar requirements regardless of their locations. Check to see if there is an industry sector website that applies to your business. 
You can also check to see if EPA has a regulatory business sector guide on your industry. 

Is there someone that can help me understand the environmental permits that apply to me?
Of course! There are several options for businesses when it comes to environmental regulatory assistance. The Small Business Environmental website, funded by the EPA Small Business Ombudsmen team, helps small businesses and assistance providers access compliance and sustainable business information. This site provides a detailed list of all small business assistance providers.

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