Protecting Those That Need it Most

The American public depends on us to pursue serious violators of environmental laws and protect clean air, water and land on which we all depend. Nowhere is this more important than in the minority, low-income, and tribal communities overburdened by pollution. That’s why – as the Assistant Administrator with the honor of overseeing EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice – I’m proud to mark the close of Environmental Justice Month with some reflections on how enforcement has advanced the cause of justice for those most vulnerable to pollution.

Pursuing justice for overburdened communities is an essential part of our enforcement work – from the problems we select for enforcement attention, the violating facilities we address, the way we design relief to remedy violations and past harms, and our engagement with affected communities. We’ve developed methods to screen for potential environmental justice concerns and to determine how necessary enforcement actions can benefit communities.

Here are a few examples to help illustrate this:

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Full Steam Ahead in Enforcement

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.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Three Goals to Guide our Enforcement Forward

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:

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

A New Approach to Protecting Drinking Water

Sometimes the best enforcement is the promise of enforcement.

This is the thinking behind a key element of Next Generation Compliance: Developing innovative enforcement strategies. The clear expectation of enforcement, combined with the commitment to follow-through, motivates compliance with rules that protect America’s air, water and land. We’ve known this for a while, but recently we’ve created new systems that allow us to prioritize the worst offenders and target our efforts, saving time and money, while becoming a more effective and transparent agency.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

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: Continue reading

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.