EPA Announces Federal Enforcement Priorities for 2024–2027
In August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) announced its National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives for 2024–2027, including three new priorities. Every four years, EPA selects enforcement and compliance priorities. EPA works hand in hand with state agencies in prioritizing resources to address what EPA considers to be the most serious environmental issues facing the United States, ranging from climate change to coal ash contamination. EPA utilizes three criteria when deciding which initiatives to focus on: (1) the need to address serious and widespread environmental and significant noncompliance; (2) a focus on areas where federal enforcement authorities, resources, and/or expertise are needed to hold polluters accountable; and (3) alignment with EPA’s broader Strategic Plan, which itself focuses on climate issues and environmental justice. Applying those criteria, EPA selected the following list of enforcement priorities for 2024–2027:
- Mitigating Climate Change – This new initiative will focus on three potential contributors to climate change: (1) methane emissions from oil and gas facilities; (2) methane emissions from landfills; and (3) the use, importation, and production of hydrofluorocarbons (“HFCs”). EPA has documented widespread noncompliance in all three areas.
- Addressing Exposure to PFAS – Because EPA views per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) as toxic, persistent “forever chemicals” that have caused widespread contamination, it added this new initiative. EPA will work to hold responsible those who manufactured PFAS and/or used PFAS in the manufacturing process, federal facilities that released PFAS, and other industrial parties.
- Protecting Communities from Coal Ash Contamination – Coal ash, produced by burning coal for energy, contains contaminants such as mercury, cadmium, chromium, and arsenic. This new initiative will focus on the approximately 300 facilities nationwide that are collectively responsible for 775 coal ash units.
- Reducing Air Toxics in Overburdened Communities – This modified initiative will address community exposure to regulated hazardous air pollutants (“HAPs”) such as benzene, ethylene oxide, and formaldehyde. The initiative will investigate and address noncompliance with clean air standards designed to protect public health.
- Increasing Compliance with Drinking Water Standards – This continuing initiative focuses on the approximately 50,000 drinking water systems that serve residents year-round, also referred to as Community Water Systems (“CWSs”). EPA will ramp up its field presence, take impactful enforcement to increase compliance, and offer more compliance assistance to prevent and address public health risks.
- Chemical Accident Risk Reduction – This continuing initiative focuses on disastrous fires, leaks, and explosions at facilities making, using, or storing extremely hazardous substances, which often result in injuries or fatalities. EPA has found significant noncompliance with companies who handle extremely hazardous substances and will target companies that choose not to comply with risk management requirements.