SB 0529 Confidentiality & Immun. For Voluntary Environm. Self-Audits
LR Number:S2270.01I Fiscal Note:2270-01
Committee:Commerce and Environment
Last Action:01/30/96 - Hearing Conducted S Commerce & Environment Committee
Effective Date:August 28, 1996
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Current Bill Summary

SB 529 - This act establishes an environmental audit privilege and confidentiality of communications relating to voluntary internal environmental audits. The act also provides penalty immunity for voluntarily disclosed environmental violations.

The privilege shall not apply when the privilege has been waived. A judicial body may require disclosure of otherwise privileged information if it is determined that the privilege is being asserted fraudulently, the material is not subject to the privilege, or the material shows that party asserting privilege did not exercise ordinary care to pursue compliance upon discovery of noncompliance with environmental laws. The act details the burden of proof on the party seeking disclosure as well as the party asserting the privilege.

The state may obtain an audit report if the state has determined from an independent source that a criminal offense has been committed, but may not review or disclose the content until ordered by a court or until the privilege is waived. A review may be requested by the provider of the report within thirty days of the date the state receives the audit report.

The act provides conditions for disclosure of a privileged report in civil and administrative cases, and provides for appeal of a civil or administrative disclosure decision by an aggrieved party. Any public entity, employee or official which divulges confidential audit information commits a Class A misdemeanor.

The act provides exceptions to the environmental audit privilege for information obtained by a regulatory agency pursuant to requirements of federal, state or local law or regulation, information obtained independently or information obtained directly by a regulatory agency.

The act defines the voluntary disclosure of information regarding the violation of an environmental law, and prohibits the Department of Natural Resources from assessing administrative penalties or seeking civil or criminal penalties from any person or entity which voluntarily discloses an environmental violation to a division or program within the Department. Penalty immunity shall not apply if the disclosure was not voluntary, or if a person or entity has been found by a court or administrative body to have committed serious violations that constitute a pattern of continuous or repeated violations of environmental laws. This pattern may be demonstrated by multiple, related settlement agreements.

This act is similar to SB 350 from 1995.

The act contains penalty provisions.