• EPA Announces National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013
  • May 3, 2010 | Author: Christina M. Landgraf
  • Law Firm: Barnes & Thornburg LLP - Chicago Office
  • On Feb. 22, 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) announced new enforcement goals and the National Enforcement Initiatives for fiscal years 2011-2013.

    Every three years, EPA sets national enforcement initiatives to address the particular environmental issues, specifically those that are confined to a specific industry sector or source type, which EPA believes effectively may be addressed through a concentrated enforcement initiative led by national enforcement teams. EPA sets strategies for enforcement initiatives, and teams of EPA and regional staff and management direct work and monitor the progress necessary to achieve the goals and annual milestones set forth in the performance-based strategies.

    For the 2011-2013 time period, EPA will be employing the National Enforcement Initiative approach to address the following six environmental and public health issues:

    • Keeping Raw Sewage and Contaminated Stormwater Out of Our Nation’s Waters.

            This National Enforcement Initiative will focus on reducing discharges from Combined 
            Sewer Overflows (CSOs), Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) and Municipal Separate 
            Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s).

    • Preventing Animal Waste from Contaminating Surface and Groundwaters.

            This National Enforcement Initiative pertains to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations 
            (CAFOs), which are agricultural operations where animals live in a concentrated 
            environment. The animals generate a large amount of manure, which if not properly 
            controlled, can overflow from the lagoons or ponds in which it is typically held and 
            contaminate surface water or groundwater. The Clean Water Act prohibits the 
            discharge of these pollutants into surface waters, and federal regulations require larger 
            CAFOs to have permits in certain circumstances. However, many CAFOs are not 
            complying with these requirements. EPA will focus primarily on existing large and medium 
            CAFOs that have been identified as discharging without a permit.

    • Reducing Widespread Air Pollution from the Largest Sources, Especially the Coal-Fired Utility, Cement, Glass, and Acid Sectors.

    This National Enforcement Initiative pertains to the New Source Review (NSR) and Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) programs in the Clean Air Act and the requirement that certain large industrial facilities install state-of-the-art air pollution controls when they build new facilities or make “significant modifications” to existing facilities. However, EPA contends that many industries have not complied with these requirements, leading to excessive emissions of air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides. EPA intends to address this issue by bringing enforcement actions against large refineries, coal-fired power plants, cement manufacturing facilities, sulfuric and nitric acid manufacturing facilities and glass manufacturing facilities.

    • Cutting Toxic Air Pollution That Affects Communities’ Health.

    In 1990, Congress identified 187 toxic air pollutants that significantly affect human health. The Clean Air Act and federal regulations impose strict emission control requirements (known as Maximum Available Control Technology or MACT) for these pollutants, which a wide range of industrial and commercial facilities emit. EPA intends to focus on excess emissions caused by facilities’ failure to comply with EPA’s leak detection and repair requirements and restrictions on flaring, and to address excess emissions during start-up, shut down and malfunction events.

    • Reducing Pollution From Mineral Processing Operations.

    According to EPA, mining and mineral processing facilities generate more toxic and hazardous waste than any other industrial sector, based upon EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory. EPA reports that it has spent over $2.4 billion to address human health and environmental threats to communities, such as exposure to asbestos and lead poisoning in children, as a result of mining and mineral processing. EPA stated that it intends to bring such mining and mineral processing facilities into compliance.

    • Assuring Energy Extraction Sector Compliance With Environmental Laws.

    As our nation develops “clean energy” sources, some energy extraction technologies, such as new techniques for oil and gas extraction and coal mining, pose a risk of pollution of air, surface waters and ground waters if not properly controlled. To address these emerging problems, EPA will develop an initiative to assure that energy extraction activities are complying with federal requirements to prevent pollution of our air, water and land.

    More information about EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives can be found on the agency’s website at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/data/planning/initiatives/index.html.