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ISO 14001: Application of International Environmental Management Systems Standards in the United States

December 1995

Citation: ELR 10678

Author: Christopher L. Bell

Editors' Summary: After three years of work, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has essentially completed its voluntary environmental management systems standard—ISO 14001. This Article reviews the standard's development, summarizes its goals and key elements, and discusses potential approaches to conforming to the standard. Next, the Article analyzes potential domestic applications of the standard in the context of current federal efforts to encourage private compliance-assurance programs. Specifically, the Article focuses on the role of compliance-assurance programs in emerging alternatives to the "command and control" regulatory system and in enforcement-discretion and penalty-mitigation policies. Stressing that compliance with the standard is not the only way to design and implement an environmental management system, the Article concludes that federal guidance should remain consistent with ISO 14001, but that the government should not adopt the standard as law or guidance. The Article also concludes that regulatory applications of ISO 14001 should not be limited to enforcement considerations. Regulators should recognize the standard's potential as a foundation for regulatory reform.

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