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EPA Announces 2012 National Enforcement Initiatives and Regional Priorities


Each year, EPA identifies National Enforcement Initiatives (NEIs), environmental issues on which EPA will focus for compliance and enforcement activities.  The NEIs are based upon significant environmental risks and noncompliance patterns.  To complement the NEIs, Region 4 has developed regional priorities intended to address environmental issues in the Southeast.  The NEIs and Region 4 priorities are listed below.

EPA National Enforcement Initiatives

Keeping Raw Sewage and Contaminated Stormwater Out of our Nation's Waters

EPA stated that it will continue its enforcement focus on reducing discharges of raw sewage and contaminated storm water into rivers, streams, and lakes.  The Clean Water Act requires municipalities to treat sewage before it is discharged and to control contaminated storm water discharges.  EPA’s enforcement efforts in recent years have resulted in agreements with many cities, but the problem remains in many other cities.  This NEI will focus on reducing discharges from combined sewer overflows (CSOs), sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), and municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s).

Preventing Animal Waste from Contaminating Surface and Ground Waters

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are agricultural operations where animals live in a confined environment.  CAFOs can contain large numbers of animals and production operations on a small land area.  The animals generate a large amount of manure, which typically is held in lagoons or spread on nearby fields.  EPA is concerned about impacts to nearby surface waters or ground water.  The Clean Water Act and EPA regulations require CAFOs, which discharge waste produced by animals on the farm into surface waters to have permits which impose control requirements.  EPA intends to strengthen its enforcement focus on existing large and medium CAFOs identified as discharging without a permit.

Cutting Toxic Air Pollution that Affects Communities’ Health

In 1990, Congress identified 187 hazardous air pollutants that present significant threats to human health.  These pollutants are known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health effects.  The Clean Air Act and EPA regulations impose strict emission control requirements (known as “Maximum Available Control Technology” or “MACT”) for these pollutants.  EPA will use an NEI approach to focus on excess emissions caused by facilities’ failure to comply with EPA’s leak detection and repair requirements and restrictions on flaring, and to address excess emissions during start-up, shutdown, and malfunction events.

Reducing Widespread Air Pollution from the Largest Sources

The New Source Review and Prevention of Significant Deterioration requirements of the Clean Air Act require certain large industrial facilities to install state-of-the-art air pollution controls when they build new facilities or make “significant modifications” to existing facilities.  EPA previously brought enforcement actions against large refineries, coal-fired power plants, cement manufacturing facilities, sulfuric and nitric acid manufacturing facilities and glass manufacturing facilities.  EPA will continue this work for 2011-2013.

Assuring Energy Extraction Sector Compliance with Environmental Laws

As the nation expands its search for new forms and sources of energy, there is a need to ensure that “clean energy” sources are developed that protect air, water, and land.  Some energy extraction activities, such as new techniques for oil and gas extraction and coal mining, pose a risk of pollution of air, surface waters and ground waters if not properly controlled.  To address these emerging problems, EPA has developed an initiative to ensure that energy extraction activities are complying with federal requirements to prevent pollution.

Region 4 Priorities

Multimedia Geographic Initiative

EPA Region 4 began working collaboratively with EPA Regions 3 and 5 to investigate facilities within the Inland Port of Huntington, which is located in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio.  Since that time, EPA Region 4 has completed one targeted multimedia inspection at a large facility, 13 multimedia sweep inspections, and six single media inspections at small to medium-sized facilities in that area.  This work has resulted in one multimedia referral and five Consent Agreements and Final Orders resolving alleged violations.  Additionally, the Region has provided two compliance assistance mailings, a compliance assistance workshop and two Environmental Justice vision meetings.  EPA will continue to follow-up on earlier efforts in 2012.

Multiregional Air Initiative

EPA Region 4 is participating with EPA Regions 2, 3, and 5 in the “Chesapeake Bay Compliance and Enforcement Strategy.”  The strategy is a multiyear and multistate plan designed to augment and enhance existing work to identify and address violations in the Chesapeake Bay air shed.

Clean Water Act

Almost 6,000 square miles of marine and estuarine waters in the southeastern states are classified as shellfish growing waters.  To protect public health and ensure a safe harvest, the coastal waters are surveyed and classified for harvest according to guidelines of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.  Classification status is based on surveys of water quality and shoreline surveys of pollution sources.  As Region 4 implements the MS4 and raw sewage NEIs, it will explore integrating the use of these efforts in targeting those systems that may have contributed to conditions that have resulted in shellfish harvest-limited areas.

Coal Mining.  EPA Region 4 will focus on addressing water quality impairment from noncompliance in the coal mining sector.  EPA Region 4 will continue to focus Clean Water Act compliance and enforcement activities in the coal mining sector, with particular emphasis on mountain top mining.  To date, in support of the coal mining initiative, Region 4 has issued over 10 Clean Water Act Section 308 Information Request Letters, at least two Clean Water Act Section 402 Administrative Orders, and at least one Clean Water Act Section 404 Administrative Order.

Surface Impoundments. EPA Region 4 has the largest number of surface impoundments in the country.  The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Division will continue with compliance monitoring evaluations at facilities within the chemical manufacturing sector that could illegally be disposing of Subtitle C hazardous waste into unpermitted surface impoundments.  Where warranted, these evaluations will include sampling to be performed by the Region’s Science and Ecosystem Support Division (SESD).  To date, 25 Compliance Evaluation Inspections have been completed, resulting in enforcement actions at five facilities located in Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

Compliance Incentives

EPA’s Audit Policy encourages voluntary discovery, prompt disclosure, and correction/prevention of environmental violations.  Region 4 will continue to process disclosures from the three sectors (hospitals, colleges and universities, and prisons) that have been the subject of earlier compliance incentive initiatives.

Compliance Assistance

Region 4 will pilot a program in Georgia to provide direct compliance assistance to water systems run by small local governments.  The Region will partner with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to identify systems and collect information on the type and scope of compliance problems at these small systems.  Technical assistance will be provided by EPA’s SESD and media programs.  Based on the experience and understanding gained through this pilot, assistance efforts in other states will be considered.

To view a complete PDF of the Third/Fourth Quarter 2011 issue of the Environmental Letter, click HERE.


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