March 18, 20240

Environmental law governs much of a corporation’s activities. Corporate strategies should consider corporate environmental law and integrate regulatory compliance in all areas: development and strategy, manufacturing, marketing and distribution, and transportation and disposal. In Rhode Island, liability extends to corporations for any corporate environmental law violations asserted by government and third parties.

Environmental law questions arise for corporate entities in the context of audits and incentive programs, contractual obligations, CERCLA liability, disclosure and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, insurance coverage, and property disputes, to name a few.

A business’s managers are tasked with decision-making in the context of corporate environmental law. These decisions are often made long before environmental issues are on the horizon. Corporate law generally covers the creation and practices of the firm, and how those areas may impact the firm’s stakeholders. However, corporate environmental law is often overlooked until it is too late. To protect against the current potential pitfalls associated with environmental liability and to prepare for the effects of climate change, corporations should embrace efforts towards environmental compliance throughout the life of the business.

While current regulatory enforcement by the Environmental Protection Agency is more lax than it has been historically, those corporate environmental law cases pursued by the EPA have been highly visible. Also, the civil charges brought by the EPA and the Department of Justice carry with them a lower evidentiary burden of proof than criminal charges. Civil corporate environmental law cases do not carry the penalty of jail time, but do threaten monetary penalties and remedial orders.

In the corporate culture, environmental liability is studied through the due diligence process and through the drafting of an environmental impact assessment. The result of an environmental impact assessment is a conclusion on the scope of impact that a project is likely to have. The assessment is reviewed through the lens of corporate environmental law and regulation; the process does not implicate stakeholder analysis and input. It also does nothing to help a business avoid future litigation because potential conflicts are not vetted by future stakeholders.

Corporate environmental law, regulation, and policy continue to evolve in fits and starts, usually in a reactive manner during a crisis or emergency. Being proactive with corporate environmental law practices can yield many diverse benefits. Improved efficiency of the organization, legitimacy in the opinion of third-party stakeholders, and liability management can also result in a competitive advantage.

In the current environment, businesses must review their policies in terms of ecological and societal crises. While our planet’s ecosystems are being continually disrupted, it is increasingly important that corporate environmental law and best practices integrate ways to avoid environmental damage while assuring corporate success. Non-reactive law, policies, and initiatives are helpful tools in corporate contract negotiation, insurance review, cost allocation, and shared liability agreements.

The lawyers at Desautel Browning Law understand the environmental liability that corporations face and advise businesses on changes in corporate environmental law and regulation, and implications to the corporation’s interests.

To learn more about corporate environmental law, approaches that can mitigate liability and manage financial, litigation, and reputation risks, call Desautel Browning Law at 401.477.0023 today.

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