Wednesday, November 15, 2006

EPA Annual Compliance & Enforcement Assessment

Nov 15: U.S. EPA announced that it has obtained commitments from industry, governments and other regulated entities to reduce pollution by nearly 900 million pounds in fiscal year 2006. The Agency released its assessment, Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results - FY2006, which it said reflects "a sustained three-year record of pollution reduction, totaling almost 3 billion pounds, and requiring companies to invest almost $20 billion in pollution control equipment." More than 70 percent of these reductions were achieved by addressing high-priority air and water pollution challenges. Granta Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said, "Today's results show that we are making significant progress in protecting the environment and public health. EPA is encouraging environmental stewardship and vigorously enforcing our laws in order to deliver current and future generations a cleaner, healthier America."

EPA indicated that as a result of criminal enforcement actions completed this year, defendants will serve 154 years in jail and pay almost $43 million in fines, as well as another $29 million for environmental projects imposed as part of the sentences. EPA's civil enforcement program also demonstrated strong results this year by concluding a total of 173 judicial cases, 4,624 final administrative penalty order settlements, and resolving self-disclosed violations for 1,475 facilities. EPA referred 286 civil cases to the U.S. Department of Justice, the highest total in five years. As a result of EPA's Superfund enforcement actions, parties held responsible for pollution will invest $391 million to clean up 15 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and approximately 1.3 billion cubic yards of contaminated groundwater at waste sites. On top of paying penalties in 2006, regulated entities will also be required to invest $4.9 billion to reduce pollution and achieve compliance with environmental laws.

EPA also highlighted its accomplishments in environmental justice saying, each of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance's (OECA) National Enforcement and Compliance Program Priorities has an environmental justice component in its performance-based implementation strategy. The Agency said, "This will ensure that minority and/or low income groups and communities are not disproportionately placed at risk from environmental and/or human health threats, especially by the activities covered by the National Priorities."

The Agency's assessment differs sharply with a September 18, 2006, Office of the Inspector General (OIG) assessment [
See WIMS 9/18/06] which prompted some 77 House and Senate members, on October 31, to send a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson calling on him to immediately implement the recommendations of the report. The OIG report revealed that the EPA is failing to conduct environmental justice reviews of their programs, policies and activities. The report found that as a result, EPA "cannot determine whether its programs cause disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on communities of color and low-income populations." In their letter, the Legislators said, "The failure to assess the impact of its programs, policies, and activities is a clear violation of the Executive Order... This report is part of a disturbing body of material documenting the refusal by the Administration and the Agency to comply with the Executive Order... We strongly encourage the EPA to immediately implement the recommendations of the Inspector General and adhere to the very clear language and intent of Executive Order 12898."

Access an EPA release (
click here). Access EPA's Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results - FY2006 website for summaries and tables of the results (click here). Access EPA's Environmental Justice Assessment (click here). Access a release from the Legislators (click here). Access the Legislators' letter to EPA (click here). [*P2]