In order to set up or operate a business, you may need to obtain various permits or licenses. The permits you may need will depend on your industry and how and where you operate a business. Some of these permits function specifically to regulate environment impacts.

Environmental licenses might cover areas such as emissions or the disposal or use of certain materials or substances. In general, these licenses function to regulate the pollution or prevent the destruction of natural resources.

Who Issues Environmental Licenses and Permits?

The city, county, or state that you operate in usually issues environmental licenses. In addition, you may reside in an area with regional agencies or districts that also require a permit. These agencies might regulate air quality, ground water, or other environmental aspects that affect a certain region.

Federal permits may also apply, particularly in regards to navigable waters, federal and tribal lands, transportation.

What Types of Environmental Licenses Are There?

Environmental licenses cover a variety of activities at all levels of government. Whether or not you will need to apply for one depends on your business’ industry and activities. Some common licenses cover the following areas:

  • Water Discharge and Contamination: Industries that release waste into storm water may be required to obtain permits that regulate how contaminated water is treated before it is released into storm drains. Additionally, any activity that could contaminate ground water may also be regulated through permits.
  • Hazardous Materials: Permits and licenses may be required for the transport, storage, treatment, handling, or disposal of hazardous waste or other materials. Local agencies may also require a permit for yearly inspections of sites that store or produce hazardous materials.
  • Air Pollution and Emissions: In an effort to regulate air quality and pollution, businesses may be required to obtain a license to operate or install equipment or to use certain solvents or chemical processes.
  • Environmental Protection Agency Identification Numbers: Your state may require registration from businesses that produce, transport, or dispose of hazardous waste. If your business generates a large amount of waste, you might also be required to register with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

What Are the Penalties for Not Having a License?

If you engage in activities that require a license or permit, you may be violating a state, local, or federal law. Such violations may incur severe monetary penalties in addition to criminal prosecution.

Should I Talk to an Attorney?

If you have been charged with a criminal or civil penalty for failing to have an environmental permit, an attorney can help defend you and your case. Alternatively, if you are starting a new business, a business attorney can help you determine which permits you should apply for, ensuring that your business is properly formed.