Administrator Gina McCarthy recently set EPA on a path forward with her seven guiding themes. At that time, I was working with colleagues across the Agency to finalize the latest version of EPA’s enforcement goals. It’s no coincidence that these goals – designed to prioritize our efforts and streamline resources – support EPA’s themes and our commitment to protect public health and the environment in every community across America.
Our enforcement goals recognize that success requires vigorous enforcement to protect communities, innovation to improve compliance and reduce pollution, and strong partnerships with states and tribes. To help us focus on top priorities, especially important in a time of tight budgets, we’ve set three enforcement goals:
1) Tough enforcement for violations that threaten communities and the environment. This commitment is evident in the enforcement cases we take across the country. We see it in the recent criminal conviction of a company that thumbed its nose at its legal obligations, failing to install required air pollution control devices to prevent the release of coke oven gases like benzene, a known carcinogen. We see it in the long fought civil settlements being lodged this year requiring utilities to slash tons of air pollution that threatens people’s health. We see it in agreements being finalized with cities across the country that will drastically cut raw sewage and other contaminants flowing into their waters, using affordable and innovative approaches that improve communities and save money. And we see it in the recently entered settlements that will clean up highly contaminated Superfund sites, after many years of intense and difficult litigation.
2) I’ve written previously about our Next Generation Compliance effort, to achieve greater compliance and reduce pollution using advanced monitoring and information technologies. This goal has the potential to revolutionize our work. Something as basic as electronic reporting is a no-brainer in our technological age. As more advanced technologies like infrared cameras that detect emissions invisible to the naked eye, or solar powered monitoring devices to detect pollution levels continue to take shape, we’ll see compliance increase, costs reduced, transparency improved and more accurate monitoring and reporting.
3) Underpinning all of the work we do is strong EPA, state and tribal environmental protection – each of us working together toward shared environmental goals. Our local partners are on the front lines. We rely on them everyday to implement environmental and enforcement programs and to ensure they’re achieving intended results. Consistently strong state programs protect the public as well as local businesses that are playing by the rules and should not have to compete with companies that aren’t.
I’m very excited about all we can accomplish together over the next three years and beyond. The challenges are many, whether they’re budgetary or significant pollution and compliance problems. And I’ve never been more optimistic that we will make progress and improve how we serve the American public.