The Texas Environmental, Health and Safety (EH&S) Audit Privilege Act (Audit Act) was enacted by the 74th Texas Legislature in 1995 and amended in 1997 by the 75th Legislature. The purpose of the Audit Act is to encourage voluntary compliance with environmental, health, and safety regulations and provide incentives to facilities that conduct voluntary audits. Under the Audit Act, facilities that conduct voluntary audits can claim immunity from administrative and civil penalties for certain violations discovered and disclosed as a result of the audit. The Audit Act also provides limited privilege for audit reports submitted in accordance with this Audit Act. However, the Audit Act does not provide privilege or immunity for criminal proceedings. This Audit Act does not apply to federal agencies, including the EPA.
Facilities that choose to conduct a voluntary audit and take advantage privilege and immunity provided by the Audit Act, must submit a "Notice of Audit (NOA)" to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), in writing, before initiating the audit. Any violations discovered as result of the audit must be reported to the TCEQ in a Disclosure of Violations (DOV) notice. Submittal of proper disclosure of violations provides immunity from penalties to certain violations. The Notice of Audit (NOA) and Disclosure of Violation (DOV) letters are not privileged documents and are available to the public. Any privileged information must be included in an audit report and the report should be labeled "COMPLIANCE REPORT: PRIVILEGED DOCUMENT" or similar import.
Ideally, companies should conduct audits on a periodic and systematic basis (e.g., annually), or when there is a change in management, a site or company is acquired, or when an EH&S Manager first assumes responsibility for a site. Trinity Consultants' team of highly experienced Dallas-based auditors, always led by a Certified Professional Environmental, can help. We have assisted dozens of Texas companies with conducting environmental audits and setting up auditing programs. To learn how Trinity can assist with your EH&S auditing requirements, contact Mr. Rob Liles at (972) 661-8100.