Written by Kelli Hicks, CHMM in BBJ Group's Ohio office
What are the USEPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives?
Every four years, the USEPA establishes National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (NECIs) to focus resources on the most severe environmental problems impacting the United States. In December 2022, the USEPA wrapped up Year 3 of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 – 2023 cycle and released a summary of its accomplishments. The USEPA stated in its announcement:
Our work reduced, treated or eliminated 95 million pounds of pollutants and required violators to pay over $300 million in penalties, fines and restitution. Our primary focus was advancing environmental justice (EJ), rebuilding EPA’s national inspector corps, and working to mitigate the effects of climate change, particularly in communities overburdened by pollution.
FY 2022 Enforcement and Compliance Accomplishments Highlights
Compliance Enforcement: USEPA performed over 5,800 inspections, with over 3,300, or 56%, in areas of potential Environmental Justice concern, which is up from 29% in FY 2021.
USEPA maximized the use of advanced monitoring technologies, such as the Geospatial Measurement of Air Pollution (GMAP) mobile air monitoring vehicle, to support Clean Air Act (CAA) inspections, identify emissions that potentially impact neighboring communities, and target facilities for inspections.
USEPA has developed electronic software, or the Smart Tools application, to increase the efficiency of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Clean Water Act/National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) inspectors.
Superfund Enforcement: USEPA’s work to require responsible parties to perform and/or pay for cleanup resulted in 74 settlements, five orders, and seven settlement amendments resulting in cleanup commitments valued at $575 million (for cleanup work totalling $466 million and cost recovery settlements totalling $109 million).
Water Enforcement: USEPA achieved the goal of a 50% reduction of significant noncompliance among facilities permitted under the Clean Water Act. The significant national noncompliance (SNC) rate has been reduced from 20.3% at the start of 2018 to 9.0% in FY 2022.
Environmental Justice: USEPA released ECHO Notify, an email service that allows communities to get email alerts when a local facility has a violation or enforcement action.
The USEPA will continue to advance the current NECIs through the end of 2023, following which a new set of initiatives will be selected for FY 2024-2027. Before making final decisions, USEPA will gather and consider input on the proposed new NECIs from states, territories, and tribes, as well as from the public, environmental groups, and regulated entities. To provide ample opportunity for stakeholder input, USEPA plans to publish the potential options in the Federal Register for comment and consider the feedback in selecting the final NECIs.
Looking Forward to 2023
Through the FY 2020-2023 NECIs, the USEPA will continue strengthening enforcement of environmental violations in overburdened and vulnerable communities as part of a focus on environmental justice considerations.
In 2022, the USEPA accomplishments focused on “protecting vulnerable communities using the full range of compliance monitoring and enforcement tools, including inspections, technical assistance supported by advanced technologies, and early actions and innovative remedies to ensure high levels of compliance with federal environmental laws and regulations.” Look for a similar focus in 2023.
Do you have questions about if your facility may be subject to USEPA inspections and/or enforcement actions? If so, BBJ Group is here to help. Our Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Regulatory Compliance team brings a unique combination of broad regulatory knowledge and functional expertise to minimize or eliminate risks that cost clients time and money. Our compliance services are designed to enhance our client’s relationships with communities, investors, and regulatory agencies.