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The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it will offer incentives for industries to voluntarily find and correct environmental violations.

The incentives will include substantially reduced civil penalties and safety from criminal investigatons.

"The new policy offers facilities that voluntarily disclose and fix violations identified through environmental audits greatly reduced penalties and safe harbor from criminal referrals," the EPA said in a statement.

The agency said the policy responds to industry concerns that companies had no incentive to conduct voluntary audits of their environmental compliance if the results might be used against them in enforcement actions.

The EPA said the policy is to take effect in 15 days, and the agency will take comments on it for 60 days to see if any changes are needed.

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