New EPA Compliance Audit Guidance: New Owner, Voluntary Disclosure, Admission of Liability, Penalty Mitigation

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

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Conducted on Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Recorded event now available

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Course Materials

The CLE course will address the new guidance clarifying EPA's Audit Policy issued in January 2021 for environmental counsel. The panel will provide an overview of the EPA's incentives to companies that voluntarily discover their own violations and disclose those violations to the federal government. The panel will also address how EPA exercises its enforcement discretion and how the audit policy may dramatically impact enforcement outcomes and businesses subject to these environmental regulations.


Environmental audits allow companies to proactively identify and address environmental problems before civil litigation or enforcement actions arise. Under the Biden administration, the EPA and many states have established policies to offer companies incentives to encourage compliance, including the potential for reduced or eliminated penalties.

Whether a newly acquired or long-standing business, companies and their counsel must take measures to ensure ongoing environmental compliance and environmental audits provide an avenue for detecting and correcting potential problems. Regular self-auditing can help reduce penalties and limit injunctive relief faced in enforcement actions, apart from voluntary disclosure of noncompliance to regulatory agencies.

There are potential risks associated with voluntarily uncovering and documenting violations and the disclosure of violations. Audit findings can be evidence of compliance gaps and a company's knowledge of those holes. Audit disclosures may not always lead to a clean resolution of disclosed violations with the regulatory agency, particularly with the change in administration. Disclosed information could lead to enforcement action and may provide unfortunate ammunition in private actions against the disclosing party.

Listen as our panel of environmental attorneys examines the current environmental enforcement policies and auditing programs. The panel will discuss privilege and its exceptions and the pros and cons of voluntary disclosure. The panel will also offer strategies for responding to enforcement actions.



  1. Environmental compliance auditing
  2. Privileges available to protect audit-derived information
  3. Voluntary audit disclosure
    1. EPA program under Biden administration
    2. Current state programs
  4. Audit opportunities for new owners
  5. Complications for auditing and disclosure arising from recent enforcement trends


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • Have there been any significant changes to EPA's audit policies under the Biden administration?
  • How can companies and their counsel use environmental audits to improve compliance and soften the impact of a government enforcement action?
  • What are the best practices for counsel to advise clients that are considering utilizing environmental compliance audits?
  • What are the expected costs and risks of environmental self-audits from a legal standpoint?


Stewart, Andrew
Andrew R. Stewart

Sidley Austin

Mr. Stewart counsels clients on a broad range of compliance and enforcement matters. With over 20 years of experience...  |  Read More

Wilkins, Timothy
Timothy A. Wilkins

Managing Partner

Ms. Wilkins’ practice is focused on providing strategic environmental permitting assistance, the defense of...  |  Read More

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