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Industrial water pollution, chemical releases top EPA enforcement priorities

Sources: Environmental Protection Agency; CP staff

As part of a three-year review, EPA has finalized its National Enforcement Initiatives for fiscal years 2017-2019, approaching the next cycle, October 1 (FY2017 start) with one expanded and two new targets:

  • Keeping industrial pollutants out of the nation’s waters (new);
  • Reducing risks of accidental releases at industrial and chemical facilities (new);
  • Cutting hazardous air pollutants (expanded);
  • 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 ground water.

“These were chosen so we can better protect communities, especially those overburdened by pollution, and were informed by extensive analysis and public input,” says Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Cynthia Giles. “We remain committed to a vigorous enforcement program that reduces pollution and protects public health.”

EPA draws National Enforcement Initiatives on three-year cycles to focus resources on national environmental problems where there is significant non-compliance with laws and federal efforts can make a difference, she adds. The initiatives will focus on employing Next Generation Compliance strategies through which EPA utilizes new tools to increase compliance and strength vigorous enforcement of environmental laws.

Target areas where National Enforcement Initiatives has spurred significant progress, the agency notes, include combined sewer systems: More than 98 percent of cities with such infrastructure and 90 percent of cities with large sanitary sewer systems are under enforceable agreements or have permits that put them on schedule to address untreated sewage discharges to American waterways.