On February 18, 2016, EPA announced its national enforcement initiatives (NEIs) for fiscal years 2017 through 2019. NEIs purport to allow EPA to focus its enforcement budget on higher-priority targets responsible for large shares of environmental violations. Every three years, EPA takes comments regarding which current initiatives it should drop and whether it should add new initiatives. For FY17-19, EPA recently announced two completely new NEIs, an expansion of an existing NEI, and the continuation of four of the five existing initiatives.
The new NEIs will focus on chemical releases and industrial water pollution. According to EPA, the chemical release NEI will focus on “reducing the risks of accidents through innovative accident prevention measures, and improving response capabilities.” As part of this NEI, EPA has proposed revisions to its risk management plan rule for facilities that store hazardous chemicals. The industrial water pollution NEI will address facilities in the chemical and metal manufacturing, mining, and food processing sectors causing nutrient and metal pollution in protected waters. EPA has stated that enforcement in this area will be “driven by water pollution data” and will include enforcing existing Clean Water Act permit limits and stopping unpermitted discharges. In addition, EPA’s existing NEI focusing on hazardous air pollutants will continue for at least another three years. However, EPA has expanded its scope to focus on air releases from organic liquid storage tanks and the protection of vulnerable communities.
The other four existing NEIs being renewed focus on reducing air pollution from the largest sources, ensuring energy extraction operations comply with environmental laws, keeping raw sewage and contaminated stormwater out of water, and preventing water contamination from animal waste. The agency plans to drop the current NEI focusing on mineral processing operations, which, according to EPA, will have achieved EPA’s goal for compliance improvements by FY17.