(a)        In order to encourage owners and operators of facilities and persons conducting activities regulated under those portions of the General Statutes set forth in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 8-58.52, or conducting activities regulated under other environmental laws, to conduct voluntary internal environmental audits of their compliance programs and management systems and to assess and improve compliance with statutes, an environmental audit privilege is recognized to protect the confidentiality of communications relating to voluntary internal environmental audits.

(b)        Nothing in this Article shall be construed to protect owners and operators of facilities and regulated persons from a criminal investigation or prosecution carried out by any appropriate governmental entity.

(c)        Any privilege granted by this Article shall apply only to those communications, oral or written, pertaining to and made in connection with the environmental audit and shall not apply to the facts relating to the violation itself. ?(2015-286, s. 4.1(a).)