On January 12, 2023, EPA released their proposed enforcement and compliance initiatives for 2024-2027. Currently, EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance (“OECA”) has six initiatives intended to prioritize environmental justice (EJ) and climate change to align with EPA’s 2022 – 2026 Strategic Plan. These initiatives focus on increasing enforcement and compliance activities related to air pollution, hazardous chemicals, and water pollution and their impacts on environmental justice and climate change. EPA has opened the public comment period through March 13, 2023, after which OECA will review comments and take into account or respond to substantive comments in the final regulation.

How does OECA determine what becomes an initiative? 

According to OECA, initiatives must:

  • Address serious and widespread environmental issues and significant violations impacting human health and the environment, particularly in historically overburdened and vulnerable communities;
  • Address areas where federal enforcement can help ensure national consistency, promote a level playing field, and achieve compliance; and,
  • Align with the Agency’s Strategic Plan that focuses on climate change and promoting environmental justice.

What are OECA’s proposed initiatives? 

EPA plans to keep the four current initiatives.

  1. Creating Cleaner Air for Communities by Reducing Excess Emissions of Harmful Pollutants
  2. Reducing Risks of Accidental Releases at Industrial and Chemical Facilities
  3. Reducing Significant Non-Compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits
  4. Reducing Non-Compliance with Drinking Water Standards at Community Water Systems

EPA proposes to add new initiatives:

5. Mitigating Climate Change
6. Addressing PFAS Contamination

What does this mean?

OECA plans to prioritize funding and staffing to enforcement and compliance activities, such as audits and inspections, that align with these initiatives.

A few highlights from OECA’s proposed initiative document:

  • Increased inspections at facilities with reported hazardous air pollutant (HAPs) emissions along with methane emissions to address climate change initiatives.
  • Increased enforcement response to catastrophic facility accidents and prioritizing inspections at facilities EPA considers to be vulnerable to natural hazards.
  • Increasing climate resiliency with actions that prioritize reducing excess emissions from industrial sector sources such as municipal solid waste landfills and oil and natural gas production facilities.
  • PFAS enforcement will be focused on PFAS manufacturers or other facilities they determine may be a significant source of PFAS contamination.

Importantly, OECA will prioritize all these actions on facilities in areas with potentially vulnerable or overburdened communities, as identified with their EJ mapping and screening tools, such as EJScreen.

How can CTEH help?

CTEH’s expertise is broad in environmental justice issues. With over 25 years’ experience on complex public health issues, incident planning and response, recovery work, and ongoing litigation support, our cross-cutting team of experts are uniquely positioned to be your trusted partner at any stage of the process. Interested in responding to the public comments on this regulation? Let us help.

Strategic Consulting

  • Assessments to determine potential EJ concerns within your footprint
  • Advising on emerging policy and legislative issues
  • Complex environmental regulatory issues, such as permitting and air toxics monitoring

Community Engagement

Public Health Risk Assessment and Communication

Data Collection and Analysis for Environmental & Public Health Data

Expert Testimony

  • Regulatory agencies
  • Environmental and toxic tort litigation

Proactive Incident Planning to Minimize Impacts to EJ Communities

Disaster Response: Building Resiliency in EJ Communities