Last month EPA issued its Draft Strategic Plan outlining, among other things, our enforcement priorities in the coming years. The draft plan reflects our commitment to vigorous civil and criminal enforcement for the cases that have the highest impact on protecting public health and the environment, and to innovation that will help us do an even better job.
Today’s budget realities have made our jobs tougher. Cuts to budgets and reductions in staffing make hard choices necessary across the board. Enforcement is no different. Our focus on high impact cases, combined with reduced budgets, means that the overall number of cases will tend to be lower than in past years. In uncertain budget times, we made conservative estimates in the draft plan.
But rest assured – we’re full steam ahead on the enforcement work that matters most to Americans.
Take air pollution. We’ve recently completed civil settlements to reduce dangerous air toxics released from industrial flares at refineries and chemical plants, requiring companies to implement technologies that control emissions. When EPA found unacceptable levels of benzene in the air around a coke facility in New York, we took enforcement actions to hold the company and its executives accountable and to reduce benzene emissions from the plant.
We’re working with cities to cut discharges of raw sewage and contaminated stormwater to the nation’s waters by implementing green infrastructure solutions that reduce operating costs, cut pollution and improve quality of life for local residents.
We are supporting clean communities by making sure that companies take responsibility and clean up the toxic pollution they create. After years of litigation, the U.S. recently won a major court case in New York, awarding billions of dollars to fund cleanup efforts across the country.
As high impact cases like these remain our focus, we must also continue to innovate and invest in the future. Through Next Generation Compliance, we’re using advanced monitoring technologies to find the biggest pollution violations and make sure they are fixed. We’re pushing ahead with electronic reporting that gives government and the public faster and more accurate information about where pollution violations are. E-reporting also promotes transparency while saving time and money that can be put toward the most serious problems. These innovations will help us be targeted and strategic in using our enforcement dollars, so we can do more to cut pollution and improve compliance.
Whatever the budget situation turns out to be, our commitment to high impact cases that make the most difference will remain our top priority. Vigorous enforcement continues to be the backbone of environmental protection. It will only be strengthened by smart investments in innovation so we can do more to find the most serious violators and protect public health and the environment.