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Last week, our co-founder Ryan sat down with Alison Torbitt from Nixon Peabody to discuss environmental regulations and review the EPA’s progress on their 2020-2023 National Compliance Initiatives (NCIs). They also discussed how the recently announced 2022-2026 EPA Strategic Plan might impact upcoming initiatives. We’ve captured the summary below, but catch the full recording of the webinar here.

A Look Back: 2020-23 National Compliance Initiatives

In 2020, the EPA released six National Compliance Initiatives focusing on Air, Hazardous Chemicals, and Water regulations. You can see below the impact of enforcement for each of these environmental compliance areas so far.

EPA National Compliance Initiatives for Air

Air Quality Initiatives:
1. Creating cleaner air for communities by reducing excess emissions of harmful pollutants
2. Stopping aftermarket defeat devices for vehicles and engines

Results:
EPA enforcement actions resulted in 15.7 million pounds of methane reduction & 6.7 million pounds of VOC and HAP reduction
Resolution of 40 civil enforcement actions, stopping the manufacture and sale of defeat devices for FY 2021

EPA National Compliance Initiatives for Hazardous Chemicals

Hazardous Chemical Initiatives:
1. Reducing hazardous air emissions from hazardous waste facilities
2. Reducing risks of accidental releases at industrial and chemical facilities

Results:
FY 2021 enforcement action conclusions have doubled, allegedly reducing over 680,000 pounds of pollutants
FY 2021 enforcement penalty action conclusions have surpassed any prior FY since the initiation of NCIs

EPA National Compliance Initiatives for Water

Water Quality Initiatives:
1. Reducing significant non-compliance with NPDES permits
2. Reducing non-compliance with drinking water standards at community water systems

Results:
• EPA enforcement actions: Baseline SNC halved from 20.3% to 10.1% between FY 2018 and FY 2022
Delivery of safe water to communities by improving Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) compliance

Looking Forward: Environmental Compliance and Enforcement for 2022-26

With the release of the EPA 2022-26 strategic plan, a series of goals and immediate priorities that the EPA plans to focus on in the near future was announced. While the new NCIs have yet to be released, recent announcements regarding PFAS indicate that air, hazardous chemicals, and water will continue to be a focal point for EPA enforcement actions.

Strategic Goals

  • Tackle the climate crisis
  • Take decisive action to advance environmental justice and civil rights
  • Enforce laws and ensure environmental compliance
  • Ensure clean and healthy air for all communities
  • Ensure clean and safe water for all communities
  • Safeguard and revitalize communities
  • Ensure the safety of chemicals for people and environment

Priority Goals for 2022-23

  • Phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • Deliver tools and metrics for EPA and its tribal, state, local, and community partners to advance environmental justice and external civil rights compliance
  • Clean up contaminated sites and invest in water infrastructure to enhance the livability and economic vitality of overburdened and underserved communities

PFAS & the EPA’s Strategic Action Plan

PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) are a large, complex, and ever-expanding group of manufactured chemicals extensively used in industrial and commercial processes, and that were not previously regulated.

  • In October 2021, EPA announced its comprehensive national strategy to confront PFAS
  • In March 2022, EPA’s Strategic Action Plan included analysis and strategies to address the manufacture and release of PFAS into the environment and its effects on safe drinking water
  • EPA is proposing to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA
  • EPA is currently developing proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water

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