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The Next Generation of Enforcement and Compliance

2013 August 22
Cynthia Giles


August 22, 2013
10:00 am EDT

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.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Karen Skinner permalink
    August 22, 2013

    Please stop fracking. There are too many spills already. It hurts our land, air and is using up our precious clean drinking water in the process. Texas is in a drought. 50% of their communities water supply has been used up for fracking. More oil but less clean water we need to survive. This cannot go on any longer. Thank you for your time & service. Good luck stopping the polluters.

  2. Bob Kelsey permalink
    August 23, 2013

    I work for a lead manufacturing facility that has four (4) environmental permits; POTW pretreatment, TVOP, RCRA Part B for permitted container storage area, and NPDES Storm water permit. All four permits have 5 yr. terms but the rules and agencies need to allow the issuance of 10 yr terms for permittee’s with good or excellent compliance records plus they will save agency and permittee resources and money.

    Our facility has had ISO 9001/14001/18001 as well as Lean Mfg./JTE systems in-place for years which show its dedication to doing things right.

  3. Ken Mangelsdorf permalink
    August 23, 2013

    A couple of comments:

    1) “rules with compliance built in” In California, many of our air pollution laws, by many of the 34 local air districts, already include compliance in them; and have for several decades! So nothing new here.

    2) “advanced monitoring technologies” A couple of things here. one, many of these ‘real time’ monitors are only roughly indicators, neither quantitative nor qualitative. If hand held, very little opportunity to have direct data reporting.

    3) “electronic data reporting” All well and good for CEMS and other similar types of equipment. But what about missing all the manual visual inspections, maintenance procedures performed, and many other day to day manual operations, and most importantly… what about reviewing and certifying the data? Agreed it is nice to have data collected, but reporting directly to EPA with no other review or verification, will lead to many, many miscommunications and misunderstandings between the regulated community, the regulating agencies and the public! Electronic data reporting is ‘OK’ but not definitive and certainly will not provide anywhere near a complete enough picture of compliance.

  4. Keith Belton permalink
    August 23, 2013

    In theory, by using advanced monitoring technologies, the Agency’s regulatory offices will have a greater incentive to favor performance standards (i.e., output-based standards) instead of more prescriptive standards (i.e., input-based standards). Economic theory suggests greater use of performance standards can reduce the cost of regulation. Will be interesting to see whether an increased emphasis on advanced monitoring systems will lead to the elimination of outdated prescriptive regulatory requirements.

  5. Brenda Morris permalink
    January 8, 2014

    Next Gen-Construction stormwater permits and SWPPs-Would it be possible to have the State’s MS4 stormwater permits require every developer that applies for a permit to have a website or a publically available electronic permit and SWPP on their website or available electronically at the local library as part of the application process? What this would do: allows regulators to do electronic inspections of the permit/SWPP;allows the industry to have the SWPP on a phone app that can be used in the field to detail changes to the site based upon construction completions and modifications to the SWPP map-minimizing industry errors in not updating the SWPPs or not having the permit available to ensure they are complying and saving time since changes are made simultaneously as construction needs change;allows the permit to be accessed using mobile technology in the field; allow for oversight of implementation of BMPs (perhaps pictures uploaded to confirm BMPs/changes) etc; allows the public access to the permit/SWPP; achieves transparency; places construction stormwater issues in the hands of the locals where the impact of noncompliance is seen and felt most readily by the locals impacted by the construction stormwater issues; and frees up and prioritizes resources. Additionally, it makes sense for the 21st century.

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