On January 12, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) published its proposed National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (“NECIs”), soliciting public comment on the Agency’s potential Initiatives for fiscal years 2024 through 2027. These NECIs will guide EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”) in its enforcement efforts over the next four years by focusing resources on “serious and widespread environmental problems where federal enforcement can make a difference.” Unsurprisingly, the identified NECIs build off EPA’s FY2022 Enforcement Results (on which we recently reported) and reflect OECA’s overarching goal: “to protect human health and the environment by holding polluters accountable and compelling regulated entities to return to compliance.”
The US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) announced its enforcement and compliance results for Fiscal Year 2022 (“FY2022”) in late December. In the Annual Results report prepared by EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”), OECA highlights EPA’s efforts to target the most serious violations of the country’s core environmental statutes and civil rights laws—effectuating the mission and principles set forth in its FY2022 to 2026 EPA Strategic Plan. According to OECA, EPA’s enforcement and compliance program used “a range of tools and best practices” to specifically target water, air, land and chemical violations that impacted communities the most. In so doing, EPA reportedly reduced, treated or eliminated approximately 95 million pounds of pollutants and compelled violators to pay over $300 million in fines, restitution or penalties. The enforcement and compliance trends highlighted below continue an overall decline seen in the last decade, yet provide evidence that EPA is succeeding in its enforcement and compliance efforts in areas that are the biggest priority for the Biden administration.…
Last week, EPA announced the results of its enforcement and compliance efforts for the federal government’s 2021 fiscal year (FY2021)—October 2020 through September 2021. Prepared by EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), the report offers the first high-level look at the EPA’s enforcement of environmental laws under the Biden Administration. “Coming off a challenging few years,” said EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for OECA, Larry Starfield, “these 2021 results make clear that rigorous enforcement is back at EPA.” Key metrics in the report appear consistent with that message.
Continue Reading EPA Releases Annual Enforcement Statistics for 2021, Announces “Rigorous Enforcement is Back”
This week, two senior U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Environment and Natural Resource Division (ENRD) officials used their remarks to the American Bar Association’s annual National Environmental Enforcement Conference to convey a clear message: environmental enforcement, and in particular criminal enforcement, is back. Companies and individuals should expect more robust investigations that draw on the expertise and jurisdiction of various federal agencies, while prosecutions will be driven by enhanced DOJ criminal enforcement policies.
Continue Reading DOJ Environment Officials Emphasize Enforcement of Environmental and White Collar Crimes
The White House announced on July 22, 2021, President Biden’s nomination of David Uhlmann to be the Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Uhlmann is currently the director of the Environmental Law and Policy Program at the University of Michigan Law School and was previously a federal prosecutor for 17 years, including as the Chief of the Environmental Crimes Section of the US Department of Justice. His nomination signals the White House’s clear intent to reinvigorate EPA’s enforcement program after what the EPA’s Inspector General found in its March 31, 2020 report to be years of declining case statistics across multiple administrations.
Continue Reading Nominee to lead EPA Enforcement Will Be Aggressive and Thorough
On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, EPA held the first of two public “listening sessions” to inform its review of the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations pursuant to Executive Order 13990. According to Carlton Waterhouse, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Land & Emergency Management (OLEM), the listening sessions are “a first step in considering improvements to the RMP rule, so EPA can better address the impacts of climate change on facility safety and protect communities from chemical accidents, especially vulnerable and overburdened communities living near RMP facilities.”
Continue Reading EPA “Listening Session” on RMP Rule Foreshadows Regulatory Changes
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) released its annual enforcement report detailing the results of the past year’s civil and criminal enforcement and compliance efforts. The report covers the 2020 fiscal year, which ran from October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020, and thus provides some key insight into the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on environmental enforcement.
Continue Reading EPA’s FY2020 Annual Enforcement Results Are In
As states are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and pausing reopening efforts, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has forged ahead with setting a definite termination date for its temporary COVID-19 enforcement policy.
Continue Reading EPA Sets Termination Date for Temporary Enforcement Policy
EPA is attempting to thread the needle in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic: offering clarity about ongoing federal environmental obligations to the broad swath of regulated entities faced with the threat of significant disruptions and other challenges, while contending with intense opposition from others who perceive its temporary enforcement policy as a “free pass to pollute” and a failure to enforce legal requirements. Notwithstanding the mounting scrutiny from U.S. Senators, states, and citizens groups, and now a legal challenge, EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) has continued implementing its temporary policy regarding the exercise of enforcement discretion due to the COVID-19 pandemic via issuance of additional guidance on National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) reporting. Other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Railroad Commission of Texas, and the California Environmental Protection Agency have followed EPA’s lead in issuing their own temporary policies related to the pandemic.
Continue Reading EPA Continues Temporary COVID-19 Policies Despite Senators’, States’, Citizens Groups’ Scrutiny
Commentary regarding the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) memorandum articulating a temporary policy applying enforcement discretion in light of the COVID-19 pandemic has been significant this week. Proponents and critics alike have misinterpreted the scope of the policy as reaching far beyond what OECA’s memorandum actually stated. As we stated in Deciphering EPA’s Temporary Enforcement Discretion Policy for COVID-19 and as the EPA has now confirmed, the “temporary policy” of exercising enforcement discretion for noncompliance “resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic” is not a free pass to pollute, despite opponent’s musings to the contrary.
Continue Reading Misconceptions About EPA’s Temporary Enforcement Discretion Policy for COVID-19