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EPA Seeking Input on National Enforcement Initiatives FY2014-2016, and “Next Generation Compliance” Initiative

On January 28, 2013, EPA issued a notice in the Federal Register, 78 Fed. Reg. 5799, requesting comments on whether the agency should extend the current six national enforcement initiatives for another three years. Comments must be received on or before February 27, 2013.

EPA currently has six national enforcement initiatives for the FY2011-2013 time period:

  • Municipal Infrastructure—addressing sewage discharges from combined sewer systems, sanitary sewer systems, and municipal separate storm sewer systems;
  • Mineral Processing—addressing hazardous waste at phosphoric acid facilities and high risk mineral processing sites;
  • New Source Review—controlling emissions from coal fired utility sector, cement plants, glass plants, and acid production plants;
  • Air Toxics—addressing toxic emissions from high risk facilities by examining leak detection and repair (LDAR), flares, and excess emission sources;
  • Energy Extraction—addressing land-based natural gas extraction facilities, including corporate-wide evaluations; and
  • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations—addressing animal waste discharges from large animal feeding facilities.

EPA’s notice also discusses its “Next Generation Compliance” initiative. According to EPA, this initiative is intended to “dramatically improve compliance by, among other things, employing advances in emissions monitoring and information technology; expanding transparency by making information publicly available. This availability of information will empower communities to play an active role in compliance oversight and improve the performance of both the government and regulated entities.”

EPA’s national enforcement initiatives on wet weather events from storm sewer systems and CAFOs reflect the growing emphasis and focus on stormwater discharges by regulatory agencies. Two stormwater cases were argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2012, and a federal court in Virginia recently held that the EPA cannot regulate stormwater flow as a “surrogate” to control sediment runoff. On the enforcement side, EPA and DOJ announced last week that a road construction contractor is paying a $735,000 fine to settle allegations of stormwater runoff violations.