EPA Plans Unannounced Inspection Push
Most notably, EPA will “use its authority to conduct unannounced inspections of suspected non-compliant facilities.”
To further protect historically overburdened communities, EPA announced additional actions as part of the Agency's commitment to environmental justice, including:
- Deploying a new program to expand air monitoring capacity, utilizing assets such as the ASPECT airplane, GMAP mobile air monitoring vehicle, and additional air pollution inspectors to enhance enforcement.
- Mobilizing Agency resources to invest in community air monitoring to better protect people and public health in vulnerable areas.
- Increased monitoring and oversight of polluting facilities to hold companies more accountable for their actions.
“The pollution concerns have been impacting these communities for decades. Our actions will begin to help not only the communities I visited on this tour, but also others across the country who have suffered from environmental injustices.”
In addition to the Agency-wide enforcement efforts, EPA is taking specific actions across Texas and Louisiana, such as piloting new air monitoring programs along three sections of Louisiana along the Mississippi River. The area is home to more than 150 chemical facilities, most within a 10-mile radius.
In Texas, EPA has increased its focus on plants that manufacture ethylene oxide, a potentially cancer-causing compound used to make antifreeze among other substances. EPA plans to formally reject the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's less protective risk value for ethylene oxide as well.
Environmental Justice in Recent EPA Enforcement ActionsEPA has already put its environmental justice initiative to work through enforcement actions. On August 26, 2021, EPA announced a settlement with an oil company related to its facility in Montebello, CA. Montebello is about eight miles east of downtown Los Angeles, home to about 61,000 residents (according to the latest census data) and known for its oil reserves.
As a result, the company agreed to pay a $132,676 civil penalty. This is an excellent example of why facility managers and compliance officers must always be vigilant of new and changing EPA priorities to help ensure that personnel are trained for any challenges they may face.
DOJ to Hold Individuals Accountable for Environmental CrimesUS EPA largely relies on administrative (i.e., non-criminal, civil) enforcement, reserving criminal enforcement for the most egregious cases. To discourage corporate environmental crimes moving forward, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking a tougher stance on individuals responsible for criminal acts.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim made it clear that DOJ takes accountability for environmental criminals seriously, and so does recent enforcement history: In FY 2020, EPA’s enforcement and compliance assurance actions resulted in 247 new criminal cases opened.
This is 77 more cases than the year prior and the most since 2014.
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