On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Susan Parker Bodine as the Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”).  OECA, the chief enforcement arm of EPA, coordinates the agency’s enforcement of numerous federal environmental laws within its authority.

This is the second leadership role at EPA for Bodine, who brings significant experience in environmental law to the position.  She formerly served as Assistant Administrator for the agency’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response—now called the Office of Land and Emergency Management—under President George W. Bush.  Before returning to the EPA, Bodine served as Chief Counsel for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, from 2015 until this August.  She also served as Counsel to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and was engaged in private legal practice.

Bodine’s confirmation was several months in the making, as President Trump announced her nomination to head OECA in May 2017.  The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing on Bodine’s nomination in June.  At her hearing, Bodine’s written statement characterized her view of EPA enforcement:

I also fully appreciate that we cannot protect public health and the environment unless the regulated community complies with the law.  Enforcement is a critical tool to achieve that compliance.  Compliance with the law by everyone also creates a level playing field for the regulated community.  By enforcing environmental laws OECA helps to create that level playing field.

She also emphasized that OECA’s role extends beyond enforcement and that compliance assistance will be an emphasis under her watch, stating:

[T]o comply with the law, the regulated community needs to understand what is expected of them.  Sometimes our statutes and regulations are less than clear.  OECA plays an important role in making sure that there is clarity and consistency in how our environmental laws are interpreted, and providing assistance when the laws are less than clear.  If confirmed, I would look forward to working with the EPA program offices and with states to provide that clarity and consistency.

Bodine was voted out of Committee in July.  However, two Democratic Senators on the EPW Committee subsequently delayed a confirmation vote for Bodine’s nomination, taking issue with some of Bodine’s responses to the Committee’s questions following her hearing, as well as her interim role  as special counsel to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt while awaiting confirmation.

With Bodine in place, EPA’s enforcement priorities under the current administration should now begin to take more formal shape.  Deputy Assistant Administrator for OECA, Patrick Traylor, has recently spoken publicly that EPA formed a workgroup to, among other things, reconsider the scope and terms of the agency’s audit policy that encourages companies to self-report and consider any updates or revisions to the National Enforcement Initiatives.  Traylor has also reiterated Administrator Pruitt’s focus on cooperative federalism, stressing that EPA will push individual states to pursue enforcement actions, particularly in programs where EPA has delegated permitting authority to a state.

EPA has historically released its enforcement statistics for the previous fiscal year in December, which will reveal, to a degree, how the change in administrations has affected enforcement priorities.  We will review and write about those here, when released.