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EPA Seeking Comments on National Enforcement Initiatives

The EPA last week published its proposed National Enforcement Initiatives for FY 2017-2019, and began a 30 day comment period ending October 14, 2015.  For the six existing initiatives, the EPA asked for public comment on whether each NEI should continue into the FY 17-19 cycle and invited comments on new areas of focus within those NEIs.

Existing Enforcement Initiatives include:

(1) Reducing air pollution from the largest sources. This NEI has been centered on industrial sectors with the largest amounts of air pollution that can significantly impact human health: Coal fired power plants, as well as acid, glass and cement manufacturing facilities.
(2) Cutting toxic air pollution. This national enforcement initiative has focused on illegal emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from leaks, flares, and excess emissions at industrial facilities that are putting neighbors’ health at risk. EPA is considering expanding this initiative into new focus areas and sources where noncompliance is a growing threat, as described further below.
(3) Assuring energy extraction and production activities comply with environmental laws. EPA has been working with states to assure that domestic land-based natural gas extraction and production is done in an environmentally protective manner and in compliance with environmental laws.
(4) Reducing pollution from mineral processing operations. This NEI has been focused on the largest and highest risk mineral processing operations, to ensure that they properly manage their wastes and have sufficient financial assurance to properly close facilities.
(5) Keeping raw sewage and contaminated stormwater out of our Nation’s waters.  Many communities face problems with raw sewage discharges and stormwater pollution.
(6) Preventing animal waste from contaminating surface and ground water.  The focus of this national enforcement initiative has been reduction of animal waste pollution that might impair waters, threaten drinking water sources, or adversely impact communities.

EPA is also considering new initiatives for FY 2017-2019, including:
(1) Protecting Communities from Exposure to Toxic Air Emissions. EPA is currently implementing an air toxics NEI and is considering expanding the initiative to include emissions from additional sources and industries, including: organic liquid storage tanks, hazardous waste emissions, including volatile organic compound (VOC) and hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions in ozone nonattainment areas, communities of environmental justice concern, or other areas with sensitive populations.
(2) Keeping Industrial Pollutants out of the nation’s waters. This potential NEI would focus on the mining, chemical manufacturing, food processing and primary metals manufacturing. EPA claims that in addition to being a focused attempt to significantly reduce serious water pollution across the nation, this NEI would allow for a national approach for those companies that operate in more than one state and would support a consistent national strategy to achieve compliance across industry sectors.
(3) Reducing the Risks and Impacts of Industrial Accidents and Releases. Thousands of facilities across the country produce, process, store, and use extremely hazardous substances that are acutely toxic or can cause serious accidents.  Approximately 2,000 facilities are currently considered “high-risk” because of their proximity to densely populated areas, the quantity and number of extremely hazardous substances they use, or their history of significant accidents.  This potential NEI would be a targeted focus on the facilities and the chemicals that pose the greatest risks, with a goal of increasing industry attention to preventing accidents, instead of addressing problems after accidents happen.

EPA also announced that for all of the NEIs it ultimately selects for FY17-19, it will incorporate “Next Generation” compliance approaches using the most current monitoring technologies, data analytics and transparency.  The agency has invited comments on what some of these Next Gen opportunities might be for the continuing and potential new NEIs.

EPA will consider all public comments in determining whether and to what extent to continue or expand an initiative or to select a new one, but will not respond to the comments received.

Final selection will be incorporated into the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance FY 2017 National Program Manager Guidance Addendum that provides national program direction for all EPA regional offices. More information related to the Notice of Public Comment is available at: