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PERSPECTIVE
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US EPA Announces Enforcement Initiatives for 2020-23

In a memo released in June of this year, US EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance (OECA) announced the Agency’s National Compliance Initiatives, or “NCIs,” for the 2020-2023 planning cycle.  They are as follows:

1.  Creating Cleaner Air for Communities by Reducing Excess Emissions of Harmful Pollutants from Stationary Sources.  This NCI focuses on reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants that may (a) affect an area’s attainment of ambient air quality standards, (b) adversely affect vulnerable populations, or (c) have a significant impact on health in communities.  This NCI continues and merges EPA’s existing compliance initiatives relating to hazardous air pollutants and emissions from the energy extraction sector.

2.  Reducing Hazardous Air Emissions from Hazardous Waste Facilities.  This NCI continues the Agency’s existing initiative for another planning cycle.  EPA notes that “air emission violations associated with the improper management of hazardous waste remains widespread.”  This NCI will focus on organic air emissions from certain aspects of hazardous waste management, including pressure relief valves, tank closure devices, monitoring, and recordkeeping.  The NCI will focus on both hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities and large quantity generators.

3.  Stopping Aftermarket Defeat Devices for Vehicles and Engines.  This new NCI focuses on mobile sources of air emissions (that is, vehicles and non-stationary engines).  Although the Clean Air Act prohibits tampering with emission controls, EPA has found “numerous companies and individuals that have manufactured and sold both hardware and software specifically designed to defeat required emissions controls on vehicles and engines used on public roads as well as nonroad vehicles and engines.”  This NCI will aim to stop the manufacture, sale, and use of these devices.

4.  Reducing Significant Noncompliance with NPDES Permits.  EPA notes that of the approximately 40,000 major and minor permits issued to facilities under the NPDES program, nearly 30% of those facilities are in significant noncompliance with their permits.  The goal for this NCI is “to reduce by half the national SNC baseline rate of 29.4 percent by the end of FY2022, while assuring that the worst SNC violators are timely and appropriately addressed.”  This NCI will focus on all NPDES facilities, not just industrial facilities.

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) is a major regulatory system established under the federal Clean Water Act whose purpose is to regulate direct dischargers, or “point sources,” of pollutants to waters of the United State.  The NPDES regulations designate specific categories of violations as “significant noncompliance,” ranging from effluent limit violations to certain reporting and compliance schedule deadlines.

5.  Reducing Noncompliance with Drinking Water Standards at Community Water Systems.  EPA notes that of the 50,000 regulated drinking water systems that serve the same people year-round, 40 percent violated at least one drinking water standard in 2018.  This NCI seeks to reduce by 25 percent the number of community water systems that are out of compliance with health-based standards.  Community water systems include both public (e.g. municipal) water systems and water systems for private residential communities such as mobile home parks.

6.  Reducing Risks of Accidental Releases at Industrial and Chemical Facilities.   This NCI, which was introduced in the last Agency cycle, seeks to reduce risk to human health and the environment by decreasing the likelihood of chemical accidents.  It focuses on facilities regulated under the Risk Management Program and General Duty Clause of Clean Air Act Section 112(r).

If you have questions, please contact Chris Walker in our Dayton office at (937) 226-9000 or at cwalker@vankleywalker.com.