EPA Enforcement Initiatives for FY 2024 – 2027 

On August 17, 2023, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) announced its Federal Enforcement Priorities for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 – 20271. Every four years EPA selects enforcement and compliance priorities for the agency and its partners to prioritize resources and address challenges, such as climate change, Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), coal ash, air toxics, drinking water contamination, and chemical accidents, with a goal of protecting communities from pollution and achieving environmental justice. For FY 2024 – 2027, EPA OECA selected the following six initiatives: 

  1. Mitigating Climate Change – focus on three separate initiatives with documented widespread noncompliance contributing to the climate crises: 
  1. Methane emissions from oil and gas facilities 
  1. Methane emissions from landfills 
  1. The use, importation, and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).  
  1. Addressing Exposure to PFAS – hold accountable those that manufacture or use PFAS, toxic persistent “forever chemicals” detected in our air, water, and land throughout the country. 
  1. Protecting Communities from Coal Ash Contamination – deal with the threat of coal combustion residues found in on-site landfills, settling ponds, and other coal plan surface impoundments. 
  1. Reducing Air Toxics in Overburdened Communities – address unlawful exposure of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from nearby industry. 
  1. Increasing Compliance with Drinking Water Standards – ensure that the approximately 50,000 regulated drinking water systems comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). 
  1. Chemical Accident Risk Reduction: reduce the likelihood of catastrophic chemical releases. 

EHS Support is already ahead of curve, supporting our clients with many of these initiatives, including identifying and characterizing impacts from PFAS manufacturing and use; preparing Risk Management Plans (RMPs); and implementing Process Safety Management (PSM) programs for high-risk chemicals and operations.  

We may not think twice about the safety of water coming out of our faucets. Yet, each year thousands of Community Water Systems violate one or more drinking water standards exposing the recipients of the drinking water to health risks. To address drinking water contamination, we will see an overlap with the PFAS initiative using other laws such as the SDWA and others such as Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Reliability Act (CERCLA); the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA); and the Clean Water Act (CWA). 

Two initiatives center on air emissions and their effect on human health and climate change. Oil and gas systems and landfills are the second and third largest sources of emissions of methane, a Greenhouse Gas (GHG), in the United States. With some standards already in place, for example, New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), enforcement of existing rules and potential development of new rules is expected to occur. Ozone depleting substances, including HFCs will continue to be phased out, but in FY 2024 – 2027, EPA plans to direct criminal and civil enforcement on the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration industry.  

Reducing air toxics in overburdened communities was modified from a prior cycle starting in FY 2020. Each EPA region will partner with states to deal with air pollution impacted by hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), such as benzene, ethylene oxide, and formaldehyde. These pollutants are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious neurological, reproductive, developmental, and respiratory health effects when breathed or ingested through the food chain, including harm to children2. This initiative will seek to target, investigate, and address noncompliance with HAP regulations with a focus on sources of HAPs in particular communities. 

Amy Bauer, EHS Support’s senior compliance specialist, awaits to see how EPA and Alabama Power settlement negotiations over coal ash storage near Mobile River play out – an issue a little closer to home for our expert. Coal ash, from the waste from utilities’ burning of coal to make electricity, contains lead, arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals, which leach into groundwater and surface water from unlined ponds. Currently, Alabama has nine coal ash disposal sites across the state, most of which are near waterways. The one in question at Plant Barry has millions of tons of ash on the banks of the Mobile River, which feeds the Mobile-Tensaw Delta dubbed “America’s Amazon” with its assortment of freshwater fish and other numerous other species. 

In describing the FY 2024 – 2027 National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives, EPA concluded:  

Those who break the law, who put the environment and the health of our communities at risk, and who seek an unfair competitive advantage must be held accountable based on the law and the facts. EPA will utilize its criminal and civil enforcement tools fairly and strategically to protect communities in the United States from the harmful effects of illegal pollution, to deliver on the full promise of America’s environmental laws, and to provide a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. 

To learn more about how these six initiatives may affect your facility, please contact Amy Bauer. 

Image source: Adobe Stock Images 

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