The Louisiana Regulatory Compliance Escape Act (our name for it) is the stinker bill of the 2015 legislative session. HB597 by Rep. Stuart Bishop, of Lafayette, is the latest attempt by industry to get around monitoring and enforcement of environmental standards.

The bill would allow an industry to conduct a voluntary audit of compliance with environmental laws and regulations and would protect the industry from having to disclose any information during the audit.

The proposed law further provides that no penalty can be imposed by a state entity for violations discovered during a voluntary environmental audit.

The time allowed for the environmental audit is six months or a longer time at the discretion of the appropriate state regulatory agency.

Then, six additional months are allowed to produce a written report. The industry is then allowed an indefinite period of time to come into compliance with any issues disclosed in an audit report but is required to submit progress reports at six-month intervals.

This proposed legislation would, in effect, confer an indefinite exemption from compliance with laws involving regulations by the Louisiana Office of Conservation, Department of Environmental Quality or the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

HB597 prevents public agencies or citizens from finding out anything once a facility decides to conduct a voluntary audit and provides extended exemption from compliance with regulations or imposition of penalties.

It is not difficult to envision a scenario in which the day after such a law went into effect, numerous chemical manufacturing plants and other industries would go into voluntary audit, emerging only years later, if ever, from voluntary compliance schedules.

Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality would lose all of its leverage for imposing compliance schedules or fines, and the public’s right to know would be bypassed.

HB597 might as well be called The Louisiana Regulatory Compliance Escape Act. This legislation is assigned to the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment for its first hearing.

At a time when Louisiana is enjoying an unprecedented industrial boom, it makes no sense to drop our protections against pollution.

Woody Martin

chairman, Sierra Club Delta Chapter