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EPA Announces National Enforcement Initiatives, effective October 1, 2016

On February 18, 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its National Enforcement Initiatives for the 2017 to 2019 fiscal years.  Effective October 1, 2016, EPA will keep four current National Enforcement Initiatives, add two new initiatives, and expand on one during the next three years.  Therein, EPA also announced the ending of its initiative for reducing pollution from mineral processing operations.

The four, current National Enforcement Initiatives to remain include: reducing air pollution from the largest sources; ensuring energy extraction activities comply with environmental laws; keeping raw sewage and contaminated stormwater out of the Nation’s Waters; and preventing animal waste from contaminating surface and groundwater.

In the air context, EPA plans to expand its initiative to cut toxic air pollutants by addressing illegal and excess emissions of hazardous air pollutants (“HAP”) from leaks and flares at refineries and chemical plants.  According to the EPA, its recent monitoring data shows facilities are emitting more HAP emissions than they report.  Therefore, EPA will expand this initiative, which started in 2004, to include emissions monitoring from large product storage tanks and hazardous waste generator and treatment, storage, and disposal facilities.

A new National Enforcement Initiative for 2017 aims to reduce risks of accidental releases at industrial and chemical facilities.  The EPA reports that thousands of these facilities, many of which located in low-income or minority communities, manufacture and/or store extremely hazardous materials.  Catastrophic accidents at these facilities, historically averaging 150 per year, cause serious risk of harm to human health and the environment.  Thus, under this new initiative, and following revisions to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s 2011 National Emphasis Program, EPA will focus on reducing risk through innovative prevention measures and improving response capabilities.

A second, new initiative for the next three years will focus on keeping industrial pollutants out of the Nation’s Waters.  The EPA has identified certain industrial sectors, like chemical and metal manufacturing, mining, and food processing, as “disproportionate” contributions to water pollution.  Driven by water pollution data, EPA will focus on these industries, looking to cut illegal and unpermitted discharges pursuant to the Clean Water Act.

Owners and operators in these regulated industries, especially those with facilities in more than one state, need take note.  The EPA is particularly interested in a “consistent national strategy to achieve compliance” and multi-state operators appear to be in the EPA’s crosshairs.

The attorneys at Lieberman & Blecher, P.C. regularly assist clients in working through regulatory compliance issues with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA.  If you have a question about environmental regulatory compliance, you can contact our office to discuss your concerns with a member of our staff.

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