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Environmental Regulations and Compliance Lawyer in Minnesota

Federal, state, and local environmental laws and regulations impact real estate, business and lending transactions, business operations, and more. The matrix of laws is extensive and complex. Compliance is critical, however, because failure to comply can lead to serious civil or criminal consequences.

At Heritage Law Office, our environmental compliance attorney in Minnesota helps our clients understand the laws, keeps them abreast of changes in the law, and ensures they stay in compliance. When legal challenges arise, we are prepared to strategize and respond accordingly. Contact us at 414-253-8500 to schedule a consultation and learn how partnering with our environmental legal team can help you stay in compliance with environmental regulations.

Federal, State, and Local Environmental Regulations and Compliance

Federal, State, and Local Environmental Regulations and Compliance

In the United States, environmental compliance means you or your organization is abiding by environmental regulations, rules, and standards established in or by your respective jurisdiction. Compliance requires a deep understanding of this complex regulatory framework, which involves federal, state, and local laws and regulations and various regulators.

At the local level, environmental regulations often deal with a few specific areas:

  1. Local water quality;
  2. Wastewater discharges (particularly from municipal waste water treatment plants);
  3. Natural habitats; and
  4. Local land/water interface (e.g., where the land meets the water and where manufacturers, for example, often conduct activities).

So, in terms of local environmental compliance, much of it is focused on local water and land use regulations. At the state level, however, environmental compliance is often about state regulations designed to implement federal programs established via federal legislation. These regulations involve anything from water quality to environmental cleanup.

Some states, like California, impose a wider range of environmental laws that exceed federal law. Because state law can vary from federal law, it is critical to retain an environmental lawyer to ensure compliance. The layered effect of environmental law can make compliance complicated and create room for violations.

Important Federal Environmental Regulations

At the federal level, there are several keystone environmental protection laws. Many of these are administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is responsible for protecting human health and the environment, conducting relevant research, and applying the environmental regulatory framework.

Some important federal environmental laws include:

  • The Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C.§7401, et seq., which is overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and aims to address air pollution
  • The Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. §1251, et seq., which is overseen by the EPA and intends to restore and maintain the water quality in the United States
  • The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. §9601, et seq., which is overseen by the EPA and taxes businesses that handle hazardous chemicals and creates a fund for their removal
  • The Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. §1531, which is overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is meant to protect U.S. endangered and threatened species
  • The Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), 33 U.S.C. §1401, which is overseen by the EPA and intends to restore and regulate dumping in ocean waters
  • The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. §4321, et seq., which was the first major US environmental law and established the EPA
  • The Oil Pollution Act, which aims to prevent oil spills and assigns responsibility for removal and clean-up 
  • The Pollution Prevention Act, which aims to reduce pollution at the start of production, for example, by switching to less toxic raw materials or cleaning materials
  • The Toxic Substances Control Act, which regulates the manufacture, importation, exportation, use, and disposal of certain chemicals

To ensure compliance with these and other environmental law, regulations, and rules, monitoring of relevant industries and organizations is necessary.

Environmental Compliance and Monitoring in Minnesota

Environmental Compliance and Monitoring in Minnesota

Environmental protection laws and regulations apply to many businesses across a range of industries and sectors including:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Import and export
  • Agriculture
  • Oil and gas
  • Mining
  • Electrical utilities
  • Automotive
  • Transport
  • Real estate development

These laws and regulations create a compliance framework designed to protect the environment and people. They speak to various issues at the cross-section of environmental and business interests, such as hazardous waste disposal, water and air quality, and the use of hazardous chemicals in manufacturing. 

Businesses and other entities are monitored for environmental compliance, also known as environmental conformance. Environmental conformance monitoring refers to the process of collecting, analyzing, and reviewing information to determine whether organizations are conforming to their compliance obligations.

Environmental compliance monitoring is often an ongoing process, meaning monitoring may occur at different intervals. Monitoring is necessary because it helps:

  1. Establish compliance; and
  2. Determine whether a business has changed its behavior or activities to comply after being found in violation.

You should know your environmental obligations to avoid any violations and associated penalties. 

Non-Compliance Mitigation and Environmental Audits in Minnesota

Environmental compliance audits help businesses understand their compliance obligations and ensure they satisfy them. Typically conducted by an independent third party, compliance audits identify any issues and suggest ways to address and prioritize them. 

These audits look at issues such as air quality, storm and wastewater, hazardous waste management, spill prevention, and emergency planning. 

Depending on the nature of the business and its operations, audits can be done in-person or virtually. After the assessment, the auditor prepares a report for compliance or certification purposes. An environmental attorney can help safeguard the report and mitigate risks through the environmental audit.

Not all businesses will require an environmental audit, but companies that should include those that deal with any of the following:

  • Waste disposal
  • Chemical laboratories
  • Construction
  • Hazardous emissions
  • Airborne pollutants

If you conduct an environmental audit – especially one conducted by a third party – know that it carries some liability. When an audit uncovers any area of non-compliance, documentation of it now exists. You must be ready to address any deficiencies immediately or else risk civil and criminal liability. Immediate responses may involve self-reporting at both the federal and state levels, but both processes will vary. An environmental lawyer can help you respond appropriately and timely.

Environmental Compliance Legal Services in Minnesota

Environmental Compliance Legal Services in Minnesota

Many businesses tend to overlook or ignore their environmental obligations. Some larger corporations have in-house lawyers to manage their environmental compliance. There are also many environmental compliance law firms that assist a range of corporate clients with their environmental compliance needs. 

When looking for an environmental compliance lawyer, it is important to find one with a focus on environmental compliance law. They must have a deep understanding of the relevant frameworks, including federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Lawyers with an environmental law practice often have already established relationships with the relevant regulators, which can be a huge benefit for clients.  

At Heritage Law Office, our environmental compliance lawyer will, among other things:

  • Assist you with any compliance challenges or questions
  • Seek the necessary approvals and permits for development projects or activities
  • Assist with compliance audits
  • Help set up compliance programs

Most importantly, we help you understand your environmental compliance obligations. A lack of understanding puts you at risk of non-compliance, which can result in civil penalties including fines. Serious violations can also lead to criminal charges. 

How to Comply with Environmental Laws in Minnesota

There are several steps you can take to help ensure you comply with all relevant environmental laws and regulations.

  1. Understand your obligations. Engage someone, like an environmental compliance attorney, to help you understand the rules, regulations, and codes that apply to your industry, business, and projects. 
  2. Conduct an environmental compliance audit. This highlights any potential compliance issues you need to address. It is important to do this for existing sites and properties, as well as any sites you are considering acquiring in the future. 
  3. Develop and follow an environmental compliance plan. You should also set out a clear plan for environmental compliance within your organization. In addition to the steps you are currently taking, if any, your plan should address how you will continue to monitor and assess environmental compliance. Ensure your employees are familiar with the plan and actively encourage them to support it. 

At Heritage Law Office, our environmental compliance lawyer can help you with the above three points. We can also provide legal services and benefits to your business through things like:

  • Outlining what you need to do for due diligence and goal-setting purposes
  • Coordinating environmental reviews of properties and businesses to be purchased or sold
  • Advising on the right language to use in contracts to allocate environmental risks and costs
  • Helping identify issues during and after an environmental assessment
  • Helping remediate identified issues so that you comply with applicable state and federal laws

The more proactive you are about environmental compliance, the less likely you are to fall foul of your obligations. 

Contact an Environmental Compliance Attorney in Minnesota Today 

Did a former owner of the property you purchased leave an environmental impact on the land? Will your business operations disrupt natural habitats or emit pollutants into the air or water? Any impact your business may have on or cause to the environment – no matter how small or big – can be subject to environmental laws and regulations.

At Heritage Law Office, our environmental compliance lawyer in Minnesota will inform you, advise you, and strategize for you so that your organization is and remains in compliance. Contact us today by filling out the online form or calling us at 414-253-8500 to schedule a consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the key federal environmental laws that impact businesses in the U.S.?

Federal environmental laws play a crucial role in regulating activities that impact the environment. Key laws include the Clean Air Act, which regulates air emissions; the Clean Water Act, which oversees water pollution; and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which governs the cleanup of hazardous waste sites. These laws ensure that businesses operate responsibly, minimizing their environmental footprint while complying with regulatory standards.

2. How does environmental compliance vary between states?

Environmental compliance can vary significantly from state to state. For instance, states like California have stricter environmental regulations compared to federal standards. This variation often depends on the specific environmental challenges and policies of each state. Businesses must understand both federal and state regulations to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal issues.

3. What role does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) play in environmental compliance?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a critical federal agency responsible for enforcing national standards under environmental laws in the United States. The EPA regulates air and water quality, oversees chemical safety, and works to ensure compliance with environmental obligations. Its actions include conducting inspections, monitoring activities, and enforcing compliance through fines and sanctions.

4. How can environmental audits benefit a business?

Environmental audits are vital tools for assessing a business's compliance with environmental laws. These audits help identify areas where businesses are not meeting legal standards, allowing for corrective actions before regulatory penalties or damages occur. Audits can cover various aspects, including waste management, emissions, and resource usage, providing a comprehensive overview of environmental performance.

5. What is the importance of local environmental regulations for businesses?

Local environmental regulations are crucial as they address specific environmental issues within a local context, such as water usage, land development, and local wildlife conservation. Compliance with these regulations is essential for businesses to operate sustainably within their communities. Understanding and adhering to local regulations helps prevent legal issues and supports the overall well-being of the local environment and its residents.

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For a comprehensive plan that will meet your needs or the needs of a loved one, contact us today. Located in Downtown Milwaukee, we serve Milwaukee County, surrounding communities, and to clients across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and California.