By Mary Ellen Ternes
Heads up! The Environmental Protection Agency is actively pursuing enforcement consistent with its 2011-2013 enforcement initiatives:
- Reducing discharges of raw sewage and contaminated stormwater into surface waters
- Preventing animal waste from contaminating surface and ground waters
- Cutting toxic air pollution that affects communities’ health
- Reducing air pollution from largest sources, especially coal-fired utilities, cement., glass and acid sectors
- Reducing pollution from mineral processing operations
- Improving environmental compliance within energy extraction sector
With its enforcement initiatives, the EPA conveys its intent to focus enforcement efforts with respect to particular pollutants, media and industry sectors. Regarding sewage and stormwater, the EPA is focusing on operation of publicly owned treatment works and combined sewer overflows (CSOs), sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s), and seeks increased use of green infrastructure and other innovative
approaches to reducing these discharges.
Regarding toxic emissions, the EPA is focusing on excess emissions caused by facilities’ failure to comply with the EPA’s leak detection and repair requirements and restrictions on flaring, and to address excess emissions during start-up, shutdown and malfunction events, focusing on local communities that are disproportionately impacted by pollution from multiple sources.
With respect to the large air pollution emission sources, despite the EPA’s previous enforcement focus on large refineries, coal-fired power plants, cement manufacturing facilities, sulfuric and nitric acid manufacturing facilities and glass manufacturing facilities, the EPA says there’s more work to do, so those of us working in these industries, the pressure is definitely not off.
With respect to mineral processing operations, the EPA wants to reduce pollution from an industry which the EPA says generates more toxic and hazardous waste than any other industrial sector based on the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory.
Finally, within the energy extraction sector, the EPA is focusing on air, surface water and ground water impacts from new energy extraction techniques and accelerated development.
This means more EPA oversight of regulated activities, including inspections, cease and desist orders, and requests for industry information to inform the EPA in its implementation of its enforcement initiatives. Industry should anticipate seeing more EPA Requests for Information pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 114, Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 308, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Section 3007, or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or “Superfund”) Section 104. Pursuant to the CAA and CWA statutory sections, the EPA is authorized to require those subject to these statutes to furnish information, conduct monitoring, provide entry to the administrator or authorized representatives, and make reports as may be necessary to carry out the objectives of the statutes. Pursuant to the RCRA statutory section, the EPA is authorized to request information regarding handling of hazardous wastes, and pursuant to the CERCLA statutory section, the EPA is authorized to request information regarding actual and/or threatened “releases” of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants as defined by CERCLA. Failures to respond or inadequate responses are subject to enforcement, and the EPA can use the information provided in responses for administrative, civil or criminal enforcement actions.