As we predicted recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making big moves to shift completely away from paper reporting to electronic environmental reporting.
Recently, the EPA proposed a rule that would require electronic reporting for all chemical information submitted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
This ruling, when it comes into effect, will eliminate hard-copy paper reporting and replace it with the EPA’s Central Data Exchange, its web-based e-reporting system.
What does this mean for your business?
If you have, like many environmental leaders, already begun taking advantage of electronic reporting, then this change will likely have very little impact. Other compulsory reports, like Form R reporting, have electronic reporting options already, so you may already be familiar with the EPA’s e-reporting methods.
If you currently use an electronic environmental management system (EMS) to do your chemical reporting determinations, you will need to ensure that your EMS can produce an output compatible with the EPA’s Central Data Exchange. The difficulty of this task will vary depending on your software provider or internal technical know-how. Either way, it’s best to start looking into this process as soon as possible.
The bigger challenge is facing those businesses that do not use any form of electronic reporting, which is quickly becoming a rare case. While the shift to only electronic reporting will be a very gradual one (this proposed TSCA ruling will take months to be fully realized), it seems like one of the EPA’s inevitable end goals.
Don't get left behind
Here are the best 3 steps you can you can implement into your action plan right now, so you know you’re prepared for mandatory electronic EPA reporting:
- Get involved in the EPA’s introductory webinars. Because the EPA wants the transfer process to be as seamless as possible, over the next few months it has pledged to host training sessions and webinars to familiarize users with the new system before it gets rolled out. Check out their website.
- Get used to electronic reporting now, while it’s still just an option. Upcoming reports, like the annual EPA Form R for TRI reporting, offer the option to report either electronically or in paper hardcopy. If you’ve never used the e-reporting option, now is the best time to do it.
- Look to the experts. Companies big and small can have difficulty reporting, and the most recent industry trend is to implement an EMS software program. The EPA is committed to more efficient, more transparent data management, and is gradually leading businesses to electronic environmental compliance management.
Big changes to environmental policy are always met with resistance, and always take some adjustment.
Thankfully, the switch to electronic reporting has numerous benefits for both the public and for reporters. It’s faster, requires fewer overall resources, has a lower environmental impact, and has built-in data validation. Once the system is in place, it will be able to proactively tell you if there’s something wrong with your data, saving you the hassle of having to find and fix mistakes should you ever be audited.
June 21, 2012