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04.26.2016 EPA Enforcement Initiatives Renew and Expand Industrial Target Priorities By: Ryan W. Trail

EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance recently proposed changes to its National Program Manager (NMP) Guidance that, in part, would revise EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives (“NEIs”) for federal fiscal years 2017-2019, effective October 1, 2016.  NEI’s reflect where EPA will focus its enforcement resources for the upcoming years.  Though EPA keeps its previous targets by renewing and carrying forward the existing 2014-2016 NEIs, it is expanding one and creating two others, setting its sights on additional industrial operations.

EPA’s prior NEIs (FY 2014-2016) have focused on (1) air quality by reducing air pollution from the largest sources and cutting hazardous air pollutants; (2) energy extraction by ensuring that energy extraction activities comply with environmental laws; (3) hazardous chemicals by reducing pollution from mineral processing operations; and (4) water quality by keeping raw sewage and contaminated stormwater out of U.S. waters and preventing animal waste from contaminating surface water and groundwater.  EPA states that its expanded and new initiatives “will address sources of pollution that pose direct public health and environmental threats to communities.”

The expanded NEI broadens EPA’s goal of reducing “toxic air pollution” from large product storage tanks with increased attention on hazardous air pollutant emissions at hazardous waste generator and treatment, storage and disposal facilities.  Specifically, EPA would identify and address violations of leak detection and repair requirements for product storage tanks and hazardous waste tanks, surface impoundments, containers, and related treatment equipment.  

The first new NEI, named “Reducing Risks of Accidental Releases and Industrial and Chemical Facilities,” targets facilities posing the greatest risk of “catastrophic accidents” through accident prevention measures and enhanced response capabilities.  EPA notes that many of these facilities are in disadvantaged communities, hinting at EPA environmental justice concerns.   EPA’s other new NEI, entitled “Keeping Industrial Pollutants out of the Nation’s Waters,” focuses on industrial sectors such as mining, chemical manufacturing, food processing, and primary metals manufacturing to build “compliance with Clean Water Act discharge permits” and cut “illegal pollution discharges.” EPA’s existing water quality NEI has been focused on municipalities and land developers (“raw sewage and contaminated stormwater”).

EPA’s proposed NEIs signal even greater emphasis on industrial operations and warrant close attention.  Facility owners and operators may also want to reconsider their internal compliance assurance protocols to keep pace with EPA’s evolving enforcement priorities.

United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Draft National Program Manager Guidance Addendum FY2017 (February 19, 2016), available at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-02/documents/draft-fy17-oeca-npm-guidance-addendum.pdf.