EPA Issues New Compliance Initiatives

In June 2019 the EPA office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance finalized new National Compliance Initiatives.  These “NCIs” signal the agency’s enforcement priorities for FY2020 through FY2023.  But in finalizing the NCIs, EPA emphasized that compliance is not simply a product of formal enforcement.  Other mechanisms, including self-audits under the EPA Audit Policy and state analogs, and informal enforcement also contribute to compliance. The new NCIs include:

 1.     Creating Cleaner Air for Communities by Reducing Excess Emissions of Harmful Pollutants from Stationary Sources.  This NCI focuses on significant sources of VOCs that have a substantial impact on air quality and may adversely affect (1) NAAQS attainment and (2) vulnerable populations.  It also focuses on HAP sources that have a significant impact on air quality and health in communities.  This initiative replaces two earlier initiatives, “Cutting Hazardous Air Pollutants” and “Ensuring Energy Extraction Activities Comply with Environmental Laws.” 


2.     Reducing Hazardous Air Emissions from Hazardous Waste Facilities.  This NCI focuses on improving compliance by hazardous waste Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities and Large Quantity Generators with regulations that control organic air emissions from certain hazardous waste management activities.  EPA believes that the prior enforcement cycle revealed widespread noncompliance related to leaking or open pressure relief valves and tank closure devices, monitoring, recordkeeping, and numerous other requirements.

 3.     Stopping Aftermarket Defeat Devices for Vehicles and Engines.  This is a new initiative in response to numerous cases of companies and individuals manufacturing and selling hardware and software specifically designed to defeat required emissions controls on vehicles and engines used on public roads as well as on nonroad vehicles and engines.

 4.     Reducing Significant Noncompliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits.  According to EPA, over 29% of the 40,000 major and minor individually NPDES-permitted facilities are in “significant noncompliance” with their permits.  EPA aims to reduce the significant noncompliance rate by half by 2023 and ensure that the worst violators are “timely and appropriately addressed.”


5.     Reducing noncompliance with drinking water standards at community water systems.  This initiative seeks a 25% reduction in the rate of community water systems out of compliance with health-based drinking water standards. 

 6.     Reducing risks of accidental releases at industrial and chemical facilities.  This NCI represents a continued emphasis on accident prevention and enforcement under Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act.  Given the high profile of recent industrial accidents, the regulated community should be prepared for increased scrutiny and potential enforcement under the CAA General Duty Clause.

 A link to EPA’s NCI memo is here: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-06/documents/2020-2023ncimemo.pdf

Chris Smith