By Jeryl L. Olson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its enforcement priorities for 2014 through 2016, however, notwithstanding its labeling of its 2014-2016 enforcement strategy as “Next Generation,” in reality the EPA announced new process is no different than the strategy employed by EPA since 2011; the strategy, in essence, is merely “more of the same.” 

Air Enforcement

The enforcement priorities upon which EPA has been focusing its efforts for the past few years, and apparently will be continuing to focus upon at least through 2016, for air are:

  • New Source Review enforcement, and compliance with air permitting rules and air standards, at coal fired operations, cement plants, glass manufacturing facilities, acid manufacturing facilities, and carbon black manufacturing facilities;
  • leak detection and repair (LDAR);
  • flaring of emissions; and
  • emissions occurring during startup, shutdown and equipment malfunction.

Water Enforcement

On the water side, EPA’s emphasis will continue to be:

  • untreated sewage and storm water (primarily from publicly-owned treatment works);
  • concentrated animal feed lot operations (CAFO) and their impacts on water quality;
  • fracking and its impacts on ground and surface waters; and
  • mining and mineral processing.

Reliance on Technology

While EPA is not changing its longstanding targets for enforcement, it has indicated it may be changing somewhat its approach to enforcement, including the use of “advanced emissions detection technology” to identify violations, and the imposition of electronic reporting on sources.  EPA also indicated that it will not just be looking at traditional “bad actors’ within each industry sector (i.e., coal-fired operations, cement, carbon black, acid, glass) but at all companies within the industry sectors.  EPA indicated it will develop a strategic plan for the Next Generation Compliance program by the end of 2013.