U.S. EPA’s Enforcement Watch List Made Public
By Andy Bowman, Attorney, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP
On November 2, 2011 U.S. EPA for the first time made public its so-called “Watch List.” The Watch List was started in 2004 as an internal interagency management tool to track alleged “high priority violations” (HPV) under the Clean Air Act (CAA), alleged “significant noncompliance” (SNC) violations under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and alleged “significant noncompliers” (SNC) under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). When alleged violations reported by a state agency are not resolved within time periods for enforcement established in U.S. EPA enforcement policies (usually 180 – 365 days), the facility is added to the Watch List. Being on the Watch List does not mean that the facility has committed a violation, rather it indicates an investigation has not yet resulted in a resolution.
U.S. EPA acknowledges that a facility may be listed in error where, for example, a state agency has resolved the allegations through an enforcement action or other determination but has not yet reported the resolution to U.S. EPA.
The Watch List will be updated monthly and can be found on U.S. EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) website at www.epa.gov/echo/echo_watch_list.html. Three lists are maintained. One each for alleged CAA, CWA and RCRA violations.
The most recently posted lists identify 30 facilities located in Indiana. The majority, 18, are on the CAA list, followed by seven on the RCRA list and five on the CWA list. Two of the CAA listed facilities are municipal power plants. All five of the facilities on the CWA list are municipal sewage treatment plants.
While inclusion on the Watch List does not mean that violations have been proven, activists may find the Watch List a good starting point to evaluate potential citizens suits against facilities if a state agency has not taken timely enforcement.