The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced an environmental enforcement initiative with particular emphasis on the Clean Water Act. “Vulnerable communities” (yet to be identified) with special health, safety or welfare concerns will get increased federal attention. On a more general level, water issues will be targeted for civil and criminal compliance actions. Top priorities include:

  • combined sewer overflows (CSO)
  • animal waste
  • stormwater runoff
  • clean drinking water
  • water bodies of regional and local importance (e.g., Tampa Bay, Chesapeake Bay)

Another focus will be coordination of enforcement relationships with state agencies. EPA is intent upon enforcing mutually important objectives (e.g., permit compliance) and ensuring a level playing field (equally stringent enforcement) across the United States.

Improved “transparency” for the general public will be another area of emphasis. EPA believes that public awareness improves performance of regulated interests and that the general public should know “what the government knows” in order to act as watchdogs. Enforcement is being staffed-up and “high impact” cases (seriously adverse human or natural resource impacts) will be targeted. Any pattern of national non-compliance by corporate and municipal entities will have a high priority.

Enforcement priorities for 2001 through 2013 are being developed during early 2010. Key factors of consideration are:

  • impact level of the violation
  • seriousness of the violation
  • need for federal involvement

EPA will be working with the Department of Justice to increase federal court actions seeking considerable penalties. Supplemental environmental projects may also be considered. Expect to see an increase in criminal penalties for “knowing” violations, including cases involving falsifying discharge monitoring records