The Next Generation of Enforcement and Compliance

We all want to breathe clean air, drink clean water and ensure our communities are protected from exposure to harmful chemicals. These values have been core to EPA’s mission since Day One back in 1970. Everyday I’m focused on protecting the environment and the health of Americans through a reasonable approach to enforcement – one that holds polluters accountable while making it easier to comply than to violate.

I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in over 40 years, but realize that new challenges compel us to innovate and advance our enforcement and compliance work. In the latest issue of The Environmental Forum, I’ve detailed our strategy to do just that – we call it Next Generation Compliance, or NextGen.

NextGen is both a forward-looking strategy and a program that we’re implementing today. It’s designed to benefit all stakeholders, from regulated entities to residents of overburdened communities. NextGen helps reduce costs and saves time and resources, while improving compliance and the accuracy of monitoring and reporting. Here’s a snapshot of the NextGen elements we’re putting into action now:

  1. We want to make it simple to comply with EPA’s rules. So EPA is developing rules with compliance built in. Take the booming oil and gas sector. In a proposed emissions control rule released in April, EPA outlined an idea to make compliance easier and reduce related costs. EPA asked manufacturers to certify air pollution control equipment as “compliance ready” so energy extraction companies could buy those models, eliminating the need for separate field testing. The user’s certification can then be cross checked with the manufacturer’s sales confirmation, making compliance checks easy.
  2. EPA is also deploying advanced monitoring technologies to make it easier find real pollution problems reliably. These new technologies also make it easier for companies to monitor performance so they can find and fix pollution problems, often saving money in the process. Real time monitoring is used today for both air and water. In Boston’s Charles River, for instance, EPA is using solar powered continuous monitoring devices that will soon be able to upload results directly to agency computers, and more of these programs are on the horizon.
    Image showing EPA employee inspecting for emissions from facility equipment using a FLIR camera.

    EPA employee inspecting for emissions from facility equipment using a FLIR camera.


    FLIR camera image showing excess emissions (that would be invisible to the naked eye) at gas production facility

    FLIR camera image showing excess emissions (that would be invisible to the naked eye) at gas production facility


  3. Just last month, we proposed a rule to convert Clean Water Act reporting to an electronic data reporting approach. By shifting from paper to electronic reporting, we’ll collectively save approximately $29 million each year on transaction costs, improve results and expand transparency so that anyone can access data on pollution that may be affecting communities.

These are just three examples of our ongoing progress implementing NextGen. We have strategies that expand transparency further. We are learning from best practices in enforcement, innovating and expanding them at scale. The bottom line: We’re poised to deploy the most advanced technologies and processes available to protect human health and the environment in budget constrained times. We do this for the benefit of all Americans, including those businesses that play by the rules and should not have to compete with those skirting the law. With the increased transparency that’s critical to the success of NextGen, citizens like you are empowered to monitor our progress and stay engaged. I sincerely hope you will.

Cynthia Giles is the Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, where she leads EPA’s efforts to enforce our nation’s environmental laws and advance environmental justice. Giles has more than 30 years of service in the public, private and non-profit sectors. She received a BA from Cornell University, a JD from the University of California at Berkeley and an MPA from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.