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For Release: Thursday, October 17, 2013

DEC Issues Audit Policy Making it Easier for Companies to Protect the Environment

Initiative to Reward Companies Who Perform Environmental Audits, Voluntarily Report Violations and Prevent Pollution

Policy Goes Into Effect November 18

After much stakeholder input, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued a new Environmental Audit Incentive Policy that will help businesses, local governments and other regulated entities better protect the environment and prevent pollution, Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. The new policy will take effect on November 18, 2013.

"This new policy not only demonstrates Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's New York Open for Business initiative, but it also encourages companies to responsibly audit their operations and return to compliance to avoid fines for violations," said Commissioner Martens. "It incentivizes companies who make a long-term commitment to beyond compliance performance which saves them money and protects the environment."

The policy offers a variety of incentives to businesses, local governments and other regulated entities to audit their operations and prevent future violations. Specifically, the policy would waive the majority of civil penalties for violations that are discovered and disclosed voluntarily, or discovered during pollution prevention or compliance assistance.

The policy offers additional incentives to entities that perform environmental audits, practice systematic environmental management or add pollution prevention to their operations. The highest level of incentives, including recognition and priority for technical and financial assistance from the state, are available to entities that enter into an audit agreement and make a formal, long-term commitment to environmental management and pollution prevention by entering DEC's New York Environmental Leaders program.

Entities with a history of non-compliance are ineligible. Certain violations are also excluded from the policy, including recurring violations and those involving criminal activity or serious harm to human health or the environment.

"The Business Council praises the work of Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Martens and the Department of Environmental Conservation staff for their commitment to continued pollution prevention as represented by the Environmental Incentive Policy," said Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State. "This innovative approach supports and recognizes the private sector's persistent adoption of environmental stewardship as a means to reduce costs, gain efficiency and move beyond compliance."

"This policy will encourage new businesses to locate in New York by offering incentives tailored to the needs of new owners," said Empire State Development president, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams. "In addition, it will help to revitalize local economies by removing barriers to the purchase and refurbishing of existing manufacturing facilities."

"DEC's Environment Audit Incentive Policy is a win-win proposition. It will help protect our environmental resources while at the same time lessening the regulatory burden on employers and job creators," said Michael Elmendorf, president and CEO of the Associated General Contractors of New York State. "This policy will help contractors protect the environment while they perform the construction activities that are at the heart of our economic recovery. I commend Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Martens on advancing this important, common sense initiative."

Richard Walka, senior vice president of Dvirka and Bartilucci Consulting Engineers said,
"With the overall goal of providing incentives for the regulated community to go 'beyond compliance', the policy's 'New Owners' provision creates the opportunity to address environmental compliance as an integral component of a typical business acquisition or merger
transaction - a benefit for the business community, as well as the environment in New York State. I applaud the Commissioner's forward thinking!"

"This policy will help farmers remain strong stewards of the environment. In its proactive approach, DEC is offering rewards for auditing, pollution prevention and the voluntary reporting of violations that will encourage even greater participation and responsibility among all businesses," said Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau. "New York Farm Bureau commends the Governor and DEC for putting their trust in farms of all sizes to continue to maintain and go beyond environmental compliance."

The Environmental Audit Incentive Policy was developed by DEC with input from stakeholders representing environmental and environmental justice organizations, the business community, local government, farmers, academia and other state agencies. DEC held meetings with stakeholders in 2012 and drafted the policy, subject to a 60-day public comment period, in early 2013. See a copy of the policy.

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