As stated in INECE’s Handbook on Compliance and Enforcement, simply having environmental laws in place is not enough to solve environmental problems. Governments must find ways to ensure that the regulated community meets the requirements put forth in the environmental laws and their implementing regulations. Successful strategies will both encourage and compel behavioral changes within the regulated community that are needed to achieve compliance.
Environmental compliance and enforcement programs occur as part of a comprehensive environmental management cycle. This cycle typically involves community recognition of certain environmental problems and governmental acceptance of the need to address these problems. From there it often leads to government establishing specific environmental goals to address these problems and selecting a management approach or approaches to reach those goals. When developing mandatory requirements, government must consider the legal basis for these requirements and establish compliance and enforcement programs to ensure that the regulated community adheres to these requirements. Once implementation begins, evaluations and adjustments must be made to continually update and improve the programs.
Environmental inspection, as part of compliance monitoring, is one of the key components government agencies and others use to ensure that the regulated community obeys environmental laws and regulations, through on-site visits by qualified inspectors, public reporting of violations, and by reviewing information submitted to it by the regulated industry as part of self-monitoring and reporting programs. Compliance monitoring is generally considered to include both self-monitoring by the regulated entity, and governmental inspections and investigations.
Enforcement refers to actions taken by the government against violators to compel compliance the law. These provisions generally give a governmental entity authority to impose sanctions, in either the administrative, judicial, or criminal forum, and require the violator to come into compliance with the law. Some statutes contain provisions that require a violator to remedy environmental damage caused by the violations or that allow the government to clean up the damage and recover the cost from the violator.