US Environmental, Health, and Safety Regulatory Trends in 2016
Over the past few years, there has been much discussion about how companies go about establishing and achieving sustainability and social responsibility objectives. Unless one is careful, these initiatives can result in overlooking the need to meet the fundamental objective of regulatory compliance. There is no country where this is more important than the United States, where the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) regulatory burden is substantial and the consequences of noncompliance can be quite severe. In order to merit a “license to operate” in the United States, it is important to understand clearly and completely the regulatory environment and its requirements. This environment is changing constantly, as evidenced by the trends discussed in this article. Highlights include:
- Federal EHS regulations continue to grow and now amazingly approach 30,000 pages. Environmental regulations represent almost 90% of the total. Regulations in the pipeline as of late 2015 suggest that this number is likely to grow.
- Both the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) budgets have remained stable in recent years, with EPA’s budget being roughly 10 times that of OSHA’s. Thus, there is continued congressional support for both agencies.
- EPA’s USD 405 million in civil and enforcement penalties in fiscal year 2015 were 2.5 times those in the previous year. Interestingly enough, this represents almost 70% of OSHA’s entire annual budget.
In sum, the challenges are still present for the regulated community operating in the United States as regulations continue to be burdensome and the consequences of noncompliance severe.