Senator Tim Hutchinson
Environment and Public Works Committee
Hearing on Environmental Self Audits
October 30, 1997

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased that you have seen fit to call this hearing today on environmental self audits. In my opinion, this is one of the more important environmental issues that this committee will consider this Congress.

Environmental self audits can be a first step toward creating a system whereby industry becomes an actor in improving our environment, instead of being labeled as a participant in destroying it. Instead of constantly fighting against the Environmental Protection Agency, industry can become a partner by working out environmental problems before they become too severe.

There certainly is precedent in passing this type of legislation, in that it has been approved in 24 states, with several others considering similar legislation. These states have recognized the necessity of protecting those industries who are attempting to be responsible environmental stewards.

Self audits, however will not be a legitimate reality unless federal legislation like we are considering today is passed. This legislation will encourage industry to actively pursue an aggressive strategy of self audits, without the fear of reciprocation from the EPA, the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agencies.

Environmental self audits are the epitome of environmental responsibility on the part of industry. In this day when environmental rules and regulations have become so complex that it takes hundreds of experts to determine whether a company is in compliance with environmental laws, it only makes sense that a company have a system whereby they test their compliance. This type of testing will not only allow a company to avoid unnecessary red tape and potential fines, but it could dramatically increase environmental protection, and in the long term, eliminate costly cleanup.

These responsible companies must have the protection from potential litigation that may result from their internal audits. If the results of their audits are used against them in litigation, not only is there no incentive to perform internal audits, there is significant incentive to avoid them.

While there is criticism that companies would take advantage of this law to get around environmental protection, I believe there are significant safeguards that will prevent this from happening. Among other willful violations, companies who intentionally violate the law, don't promptly mend violations, or have patterns of violations are exempted from any kind of protection.

I strongly support this legislation and look forward to working with Senators Hutchison and Enzi toward passing a bill that is both environmentally responsible and fair to those companies who perform the audits.