Environmental Enforcement – What Can We Expect?

As we await the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual enforcement action summary (typically in November or December), we might gain some insight on the FY 2012 results by looking at some current enforcement action, as well as, last year’s enforcement results.

For FY 2011 EPA Compliance and Enforcement was very busy, including $168 million in assessed penalties, an additional $25 million in “additional investments” for supplemental environmental projects (SEPs), and 89.5 years of incarceration for “environmental criminals.”  According to the EPA, “enforcement actions required companies to invest an estimated $19 billion in actions & equipment to control pollution (injunctive relief) – an EPA record (their emphasis).

One recent environmental enforcement story seems to indicate this trend will continue.  In the publication, “Environmental Compliance Alert,” their headline story was about a glassware factory’s Clean Air Act (CAA) violation.  The CAA violation cost the company in excess of $10 million!

Interestingly, the actual violation (failure to apply for a preconstruction permit to limit NOx and PM emissions) dates back to 1999.  As you can imagine, all of this triggered “protracted enforcement negotiations with the EPA, the US Justice Department, and New Jersey’s attorney general.”

So where has all this enforcement been taking place?  The EPA has developed an interesting interactive map that provides detailed information about the civil enforcement actions taken by the EPA, criminal cases prosecuted by the EPA, and cases in which the EPA provided “significant support to cases prosecuted under state criminal laws.”

What can the regulated community expect in 2013 and beyond?  We’ll not speculate but, it is our hope that the nation’s top environmental agency will focus on true environmental protection and not aim at breaking enforcement records.

Finally, considering the potential “enforcement climate” and in the spirit of capitalism and shameless self-promotion, we’ll remind you that we get it.  Our job is to use our knowledge of science, engineering, and regulations to find solutions, which includes saving you money.  We’re not bashful in our defense of science and reason, including how we helped our client avoid spending $5 million in environmental remediation.  We will also say, in no uncertain terms, that our solution provided better environmental protection than would have been afforded had the $5 million been spent.  This, in our mind, is environmental consulting.

As 2013 unfolds, we’ll keep an eye on the environmental enforcement trends, and we will keep you informed on our observations.

In the meantime, we wish everyone a happy, restful, and joy-filled Holiday Season.

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