Missed the TRI Reporting Deadline? Here’s What to Do Now

Written By: Chris Ruhlin | Jul 2, 2024

Time to Read 9 Minutes

Missed the TRI Reporting Deadline? Here’s What to Do Now
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Oops, Missed the TRI Deadline? Here's Your Game Plan!

Every year, facilities required to report their toxic chemical releases must do so by July 1st in order to satisfy TRI Reporting regulations. If the deadline falls on a weekend, it shifts to the next working day. This date might seem far off when you're busy with daily operations, but it can sneak up on you quickly. The TRI (Toxic Release Inventory) deadline isn’t just another date on the calendar; it’s a crucial compliance milestone for facilities handling hazardous chemicals.

Missing this deadline isn't just a minor oversight — it can lead to significant headaches, including hefty fines, legal scrutiny, and reputational damage. But don’t panic just yet! If you find yourself on July 2nd (or later) with an unsubmitted report, all is not lost. You have options, though none are particularly pleasant, and each comes with its own set of challenges. The short version? You're going to want to reach out to an environmental expert to guide you through the process.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to take if you’ve missed the TRI deadline, how to assess your situation, and the immediate actions required to minimize fallout. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-time reporter, this game plan is designed to help you navigate the murky waters of missed deadlines with as little stress as possible. So, let’s dive in and get you back on track!

Step 1: Assess Your Situation

Alright, take a deep breath. The first step is to determine your reporting history and requirements. Understanding your past reporting activities and current obligations will help you navigate the next steps more effectively.

Have You Reported in the Past?

If you've reported in the past and your business hasn't made any drastic operational changes, it's fairly safe to say you should be reporting this year too. Facilities that have previously reported are more likely to raise red flags if they miss a deadline compared to those that have never reported. Once you're "on the books," regulatory agencies know you exist and have handled toxic chemicals in the past, and they will expect a report this year too.

If you didn’t report last year, regulatory agencies are probably not expecting you to report this year either, so you likely haven't raised any red flags yet by missing the deadline. However, this doesn’t mean you should ignore your reporting obligations. Ensure you review your requirements carefully to determine if you need to report this year, and if so, take immediate action to comply.

Are You Sure You Need to Report?

If you’ve never reported, first ensure that you are indeed required to report. Specific criteria determine who must report and who is exempt. Document your findings carefully, especially if you determine that reporting is not required. This documentation can serve as crucial evidence in case of any future audits or inquiries.

Industrial Manager Overwhelmed by TRI Reporting

Facilities must report if they meet the following criteria:

  • TRI Covered Industry: Facilities classified under specific NAICS codes. Each business is assigned a NAICS code based on its industry—ensure your facility's code is included under TRI regulations. Many industries are required to report, but some are not!
  • Employee Threshold: Facilities with 10 or more full-time employees or the equivalent in part-time employees.
  • Chemical Thresholds:
    • Manufacturing or Processing: Facilities that manufacture or process more than 25,000 pounds of any listed toxic chemical over the course of the calendar year.
    • Otherwise Use: Facilities that otherwise use more than 10,000 pounds of any listed toxic chemical during the calendar year.

Make sure to review the complete list of toxic chemicals and specific thresholds as provided by the EPA to confirm your reporting requirements.

Still Unsure?

If you're on the fence about whether you need to report, reach out to a qualified TRI consultant, like us at RMA, for guidance. A consultant can help determine your reporting history, assess if you exceed reporting thresholds, and guide you through the entire reporting process.

Step 2: Immediate Actions if You Missed the Deadline

Whether you’ve determined that you need to report for the first time, or you've reported in the past and missed the deadline this year, it's time to get to work. Missing the TRI deadline is serious, but taking prompt and decisive action can help mitigate potential consequences. Here’s what you should do next:

Engage Legal Counsel

Consult with environmental legal counsel immediately to minimize the risk of penalties and fines, which can be substantial. An experienced attorney can guide you through the legalities and help develop a strategy to address your missed deadline.

You might think this sounds overkill, but regulatory agencies take these matters seriously, and having expert legal advice can make a significant difference.

 

Environmental Manager Meets with Environmental Consultant and Lawyer

Get to Work Immediately

Start preparing your report right away! While an environmental attorney can provide valuable legal guidance, they won't be able to prepare the report for you. Think of it like hiring a lawyer to talk with the IRS if your business didn’t file taxes — they handle the legal aspects, but they don't prepare your tax return (which the government still wants!).

Similarly, you'll need to take on the task of preparing your TRI report yourself. If you're not confident in your ability to handle the process, it’s wise to seek help from a qualified TRI consultant. Missing the deadline and then submitting an incorrect report can significantly worsen your situation.

With all kinds of materials to report and different types of reporting forms to decipher, now is probably not the time to go the DIY route. After all, TRI reporting takes time, and at this point, you don't have much to spare. Hiring an expert will cost you, but it's a worthwhile an investment in minimizing risk and protecting your business from further damage.

Options for Reporting

Okay, so you’ve consulted with professionals, prepared your report, and now you’re ready to take the next step: reporting. This stage can be complex, and choosing the right approach is crucial.

You have a couple of options to consider, each with its own set of advantages and potential pitfalls. It's highly advisable to defer to your legal counsel to determine the best course of action for your specific situation. Here are the options:

Submit When Ready

Based on your legal counsel's advice, you can choose to submit the report as soon as it’s ready, regardless of the delay. This approach involves completing and filing your report as quickly as possible to show that you are taking immediate steps to comply with the requirements. Prompt submission, even after the deadline, can demonstrate your proactive stance in addressing the oversight.

Keep in mind that once you've submitted, you're at risk of a red flag being raised. A late report can signify a lack of preparation, which can in turn lead to increased scrutiny, more eyes on your report, and additional questions. For those reasons, you may want to consider the next option, either as an alternative or in addition to submitting your report right away.

TRI reporting forms

Self-Report Non-Compliance

You can also utilize the USEPA and State audit policies to self-report your non-compliance. These audit policies involve voluntarily disclosing your failure to meet the deadline to the authorities before they discover it on their own. Essentially, you’re saying, "Whoops, we messed up," but you’re also showing your commitment to rectifying the situation. You'll need to present a plan of action for coming back into compliance, but you may be granted an extension on the deadline. If you want to pursue this option, it's best to get help from an environmental consultant.

Self-reporting can demonstrate your commitment to compliance and cooperation, which can provide some protection against penalties. The USEPA and various states usually offer incentives for facilities that self-report violations promptly, often reducing or even waiving fines if certain conditions are met. This proactive approach can help mitigate the potential financial and reputational damage caused by missing the deadline.

Delay Reporting Until Next Year

This is not recommended! Delaying might seem easier now, but it could lead to significant fines and penalties later when your past failure to report comes to light. Regulatory agencies have a long memory, and when they eventually discover your noncompliance, the consequences can be severe.

If it's your first time, you'll likely continue to fly under the radar since you're not "on the books" yet. However, next year you may face questions about why you didn't report the last time around. If you have reported in the past, this is a very unwise decision, as red flags are likely to be raised when you don't submit a report this year.

Delaying your report can also damage your facility's reputation and erode trust with regulatory bodies. It's better to face the issue head-on now rather than risk escalating the problem by putting it off. Prompt action demonstrates responsibility and can help mitigate some of the potential fallout.

Environmental Consultant doing TRI Reporting

Bottom Line: Plan Ahead

TRI reporting is a complex and time-sensitive process that cannot be accurately completed at the last minute. To avoid the stress and potential penalties associated with missed deadlines, it’s crucial to start early, seek qualified assistance from a TRI expert, and ensure timely submission next year.

To summarize, if you’ve missed the TRI reporting deadline of June 1st:

  1. Consult with Environmental Legal Counsel and a Qualified Consultant: This provides the best protection and likely the best outcome.
  2. Act Quickly: Don’t delay further; it will only make things worse.

Remember, proactive measures and timely reporting are always better than dealing with the repercussions of missed deadlines.

Tackle TRI Regulations with Confidence

Navigating the complexities of TRI regulations is crucial for any facility aiming for smooth and efficient operations. With RMA by your side, you can ensure compliance while enhancing effectiveness, saving both time and resources.

At RMA, our commitment to supporting you is unwavering. Whether you're tackling TRI reporting for the first time or optimizing your existing processes, our expert team is here to help you achieve your environmental compliance goals and streamline your operations.

Ready to take the next step? Drop us an email at info@rmagreen.com, reach out through our contact page, or call us at 888-RMA-0230. Let's work together to overcome your TRI reporting challenges and keep your business running smoothly.

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