Regulatory Library

Understanding and Using EPA's Chemical Industry Compliance Improvement Tool

I. Introduction

In order to help the chemical industry sector and regulator assess and improve compliance with applicable regulations, U.S. EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) developed a Chemical Industry Compliance Improvement Tool (CIT) in September 1998. The CIT is a directory of environmental regulatory resources, which includes both governmental and non governmental resources that may help the chemical industry improve compliance. The whole document can be downloadable from the EPA's web site.

The CIT is divided into eight chapters, five of which addresses major environmental statutes: Clean Air Act (CAA); Clean Water Act (CWA); Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA); Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Superfund, Underground Storage Tank Program, and Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The rest of this tool presents three methods to assess and improve compliance, which are environmental auditing; environmental management systems (EMS) and pollution prevention (P2). Since a lot of information resources regarding the five major statutes have already been made by ChemAlliance available, the focus in this article will be on the three methods and some resources that can be used by the chemical industry to improve compliance. Some of the information is available on on-line resources, others are documents can be requested through agencies. Below are some of the resource locations:

OCLC-Online Computer Library Center; designation used for U.S. EPA internal interlibrary loan purposes.

NTIS-National Technical Information Service
Tel: (800) 553-6847 or (703) 605-6000
Fax: (703) 605-6900
Hours: 8:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m. (ET), M-F
Address: NTIS 5285 Port Royal Road Springfield, VA 22161

II. Environmental Auditing

Environmental auditing is relatively reactive in nature. It detects compliance results, which may indicate the need for costly corrective action programs to bring the system back into compliance. EPA has issued therevised final policy on "Incentives for Self-Policing: Discovery, Disclosure, Correction and Prevention of Violations," commonly referred to as the "Audit Policy." The purpose of this Policy is to enhance the protection of human health and the environment by encouraging regulated entities to voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, and expeditiously correct violations of federal environmental requirements. Incentives that EPA makes available for those who meet the terms of the Audit Policy include the elimination or substantial reduction of the gravity component of civil penalties and a determination not to recommend criminal prosecution of the disclosing entity. The Policy also restates EPA’s long-standing practice of not requesting copies of regulated entities’ voluntary audit reports to trigger Federal enforcement investigation. The main information resources include:

  • Process-Based Investigation Guide - This documents introduces and defines the concept of “process-based” investigations, discusses the usefulness of this “tool”, and provides a “road map” to planning conducting these types of investigations.
  • Chemical Safety Audits (Training Manual) - This “course” presents safety auditing for highly hazardous chemicals. It covers basic chemical system and processes, chemical process hazards, process safety management, emergency response, chemical hazard mitigation, chemical hazard evaluation, hazard evaluation techniques and incident investigation. (document available from NTIS)
  • Environmental Auditing-A Useful Tool that Can Improve Environmental Performance and Reduce Cost
  • Environmental Auditing- Principles and General Practices (NSF Standard) - This standard establishes the minimum requirements of a comprehensive environmental management system (EMS) and is intended to help organizations focus mainly on improving environmental performance and environmental stewardship. This document also contains guidance for developing an EMS or improving an existing one. (document available from NTIS)
  • Generic Protocol for Conducting Environmental Audits of Federal Facilities - The Generic Protocol consists of a set of narrative instructions, source lists, and checklists of Federal environmental regulations for environmental issues encountered at Federal facilities. It includes two volumes, containing instructions for use of all three auditing phases. (documents available from NTIS)
    • Volume 1, Phase 1-Auditing for Compliance: Provides for a review of facility conditions with regard to specific media areas (e.g., air, water, and solid and hazardous waste) with a focus on compliance with environmental requirements.
    • Volume 2, Phase 2-Acessing Management Effectiveness of Specific Environmental Programs: Examines crosscutting issues and approaches, such as pollution prevention and eight different organizational disciplines, that help foster success in the technical management areas outlined in Phase I.
    • Volume 2, Phase 3-Auditing for Management Effectiveness of All Environmental Programs at a facility Site: Examines the facility’s management of all environmental programs to help establish compliance as the “starting point” rather than the “goal” of environmental performance.
  • ISO 14000 EMS Audit Handbook (document available from OCLC)
  • Practical Tools and Concepts for Environmental Audits and Assessments  - This paper discusses the use of Environmental Audits (EA), Pollution Prevention Opportunity Assessments (PPOA), and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as management tools designed to identify and evaluate waste generating activities, determine hoe to best manage the waste stream, implement a waste management program, and measure environmental progress.  (document available from NTIS)

III. Environmental Management System (EMS) Sources

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a systematic approach to ensuring that environmental activities are well managed in any organization. EMS is a continual cycle of planning, implementing, reviewing and improving the actions that an organization takes to meet its environmental obligations. It works to prevent the occurrence of regulatory non-compliance and identifies opportunities for improvement and pollution prevention. Potentially significant environmental improvements (and cost savings) can be achieved by reviewing and improving an organization's management process. Not all environmental problems need to be solved by installing expensive pollution control equipment. The most familiar form of an EMS is the ISO 14001 Standard established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and it has become widely adopted in the United States and internationally.

Some key EMS resources are listed below. 

  • Exploring ISO 14000 - This web site is produced by Management Alliances, Inc. It covers ISO 14000 in depth and describes on ISO 9000 as well. The site includes features like FAQs, full text articles and the popular ISO 14001. 
  • International Organization on Standardization -This web site is a directory source for information on ISO 14001 and other international standard documentation.
  • ISO 14000 Infocenter - This site is created by the Environmental Industry Web Site. It provides the latest news releases and other developments related to ISO 14000; overview of the standard, EMS articles and Eco-Efficiency information.
  • Stoller ISO 14000 Information - This sites present information about training program for ISO 14000 and 14001 for business and industry. The sites include an overview and description, full text articles, and a visual roadmap.
  • U.S. EPA Standards Network - This site offers an insight into the ISO standards from the U.S. EPA. The site includes basic information on the ISO standards and their impacts in the U.S.
  • What is ISO 14000? Questions and Answers - The questions concerned in this book include: environmental policy-standards; environmental protection-standards; quality assurance-standards; quality control-standards. (document available from OCLC)

IV. Pollution Prevention (P2)

The Congress passed the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA) in 1990, which makes the pollution prevention (P2) the national policy of the United States. It sets up an environmental hierarchy which favors P2 (source reduce) over recycling, treatment and disposal whenever feasible. The main points include:

  • Pollution should be prevented or reduced at the source when ever feasible;
  • Pollution that cannot be prevented should be recycled in an environmentally safe manner whenever feasible;
  • Pollution that cannot be prevented or recycled should be treated in an environmentally safe manner whenever feasible; and
  • Disposal or other release into the environment should be employed only as a last resort and should be conducted in an environmentally safe manner.

Some useful pollution prevention "starting points" include the following.   A more complete list of P2 resources for the chemical process industries is currently in development and will published in August 2000.

  • Enviro$en$e - EPA supports Enviro$en$e, an electronic environmental communications network to share P2 information, case studies, and technologies, provides a single repository for pollution prevention, compliance assurance, and enforcement information and data bases. Included are pollution prevention case studies, technologies, points of contact, environmental statutes, executive orders, regulations and compliance and enforcement policies and guidelines.
  • National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) - The NPPR web page includes a wide range of P2 news, such as conferences and congressional briefings, and provide assistance such as the P2 yellow pages which contain regional organizations that work with state and local governments, state and local governments programs, federal agencies, U.S. EPA P2 coordinators, non-profit groups, private sector organizations, and non-profit consultants who work on P2.
  • Pollution Prevention Information Clearinghouse (PPIC) - PPIC is a free service providing telephone reference and referral, distribution of EPA documents, and a collection of P2 references available for interlibrary loan. Call the Clearinghouse Hotline at 202-260-1023, fax at 202-260-4659 or send e-mail to for more information or to order documents.
  • Improving Performance in the Chemical Industry: 14 Steps toward Pollution Prevention - (document available from OCLC)
  • U.S. EPA's Pollution Prevention R and D Approaches and Insight into the Chemical Process Industry - This book presents the programs to work with states, local governments, regional and federal agencies, and industry to encourage the identification of pollution prevention technologies and methods to reduce wastes established by U.S. EPA. (document available from OCLC)

V. For More Information and Technical Assistance for the Chemical Industry

Contact Emily Chow, U.S. EPA Office of Compliance, by phone at (202) 564-7071 or by email at

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