EPA’s Enforcement Priorities – the Next Four Years
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) enforcement office has announced its national priorities for the next four years, following a proposal for public comment earlier this year.1 The Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) selected six National Compliance Initiatives (NCIs or Initiatives) for fiscal years 2020 to 2023 to focus national enforcement efforts.2 The Initiatives represent EPA’s way of focusing resources on what it sees as the most serious nationwide environmental compliance issues, and they are implemented through EPA headquarters working with EPA regions, states and tribes.
The selection reflects a revamping of the framework for enforcement priorities, first announced in August 2018, which includes rebranding from the National Enforcement Initiatives and moving from a three-year term to a four-year term.3 But despite the changes in the framework, the majority of the Initiatives reflect a continuation of priorities: Of the six Initiatives, two are new, two are modified from the prior cycle, and two are continued from the prior cycle without modifications.
Although much is a continuation in priorities, EPA has suggested that it will employ more compliance assistance and informal enforcement measures in addition to its publicized enforcement actions. Selection of an enforcement priority generally means that EPA headquarters and regional offices will commit resources to complete investigations and enforcement actions across the country. The next step in the process will be regional offices making numerical commitments to inspections/investigations and follow-up enforcement actions.
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