The EPA may be able to prosecute violators through two different channels: civilly or criminally. Civil penalties range from monetary fines to environmental damage repairs, while criminal punishments may include imprisonment. In civil cases, the EPA may enforce its rules by issuing orders and obtaining court rulings. Criminal violations are handled by the governing state and punishments are imposed by a judge. Contacting the EPA isn't always the best option. Contacting your local government or other federal agencies may be more appropriate.
EPA's Unfinished Business report on pollution control concerns
The EPA's Unfinished Business report highlights the importance of priority setting, the process by which the agency determines which environmental problems to prioritize for federal action. This report includes recommendations for improving the Safe Drinking Water Act, requiring chemical companies to submit their test results, and setting national targets for the reduction of the use of toxic chemicals. But it's not clear how these recommendations can be made work.
The EPA's Unfinished Business report on environmental risks was released in 1990, two years after a special task force released a report on hazardous waste disposal. While it concluded that disposal of hazardous waste posed minimal risks to the public's health, it also found that public perceptions of risks were a primary determinant of EPA priorities. Another report, released by the Science Advisory Board, supported the EPA's conclusions and argued that priorities were based on public perception rather than scientific evidence.
The EPA is also working on a pollutant modeling guidance document, which will be used to assess whether emissions will degrade the air quality. The White House completed its review of the draft document on April 12. The EPA could also bring back the 2003 rule exempting routine maintenance from new source review. That rule was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2006, in the case of New York v. EPA. The court held that such changes were not routine maintenance.
The EPA's reliance on science to justify its decisions is an insufficient mechanism to improve the effectiveness of its programs. Its fragmentation, resulting from a lack of an organic statute and an undefined mission, makes it impossible for it to make rational decisions between various programs. The result is bureaucratic red tape and excessive litigation. A more appropriate approach is to establish a single regulatory authority to address all of the environmental problems.
EPA's enforcement actions
The EPA has recently deemphasized enforcement, and its chief enforcement official has spent much of 2020 defending a policy that signals companies that they no longer need to report pollution. While the agency should continue pursuing enforcement, it should focus on more targeted cases. This strategy has significant implications for the health of the entire nation, and we should be concerned about its impact. In particular, the new enforcement plan could lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and particulate pollution. Consequently, the EPA's enforcement actions may have a negative impact on those who drink water.
EPA enforces environmental laws through several methods, including civil penalties, injunctive relief, and nondelegated programs. Although states have primary enforcement responsibility in many programs, the federal agency also undertakes enforcement actions under these laws. These enforcement measures allow Congress and the public to measure the effectiveness of the EPA's programs and reflect its progress. Accordingly, EPA agrees to publish reports on its enforcement actions, including the monetary value of injunctive relief, pollution reduction, and injunctive relief.
The Trump administration has talked about reducing EPA enforcement, and the evidence shows that the enforcement of environmental laws has already decreased. Many states, especially blue states, have seen declines in EPA enforcement, which is a significant indicator of environmental protection. In fact, state-based enforcement accounts for the majority of environmental legal actions, which far outweigh the actions by federal agencies. However, the new administration will not budge on its plan.
The EPA's enforcement actions are governed by laws, and civil penalties and criminal sanctions are common. Civil penalties are monetary assessments that the violating entity must pay, and criminal punishments can range from fines to imprisonment. Additionally, injunctive relief involves an order requiring an entity to take certain actions, which bring it into compliance with environmental laws. But as we've noted above, the EPA doesn't always handle every concern, so if your concerns aren't addressed by the EPA, you can contact state and federal environmental agencies.
EPA's joint inspections with OSHA
The EPA and OSHA have announced plans to conduct joint inspections of petrochemical plants. The joint inspections will focus on the petrochemical special emphasis inspection program that each agency developed independently. Because of their separate regulatory interests, both agencies have interest in successfully implementing this program. In addition, prior experience suggests that facilities with EPA violations are likely to have OSHA violations, too. To begin the process, basic training procedures will be developed and data exchanged between the agencies.
The EPA and OSHA may conduct joint inspections or separate inspections. In both cases, if they find violations that are related to a specific area, they will report them to each other. Some inspections may be part of an annual work plan developed by both agencies, while others are ad hoc and following a report of a violation or accident. Joint inspections are often helpful in determining whether a workplace is compliant with both laws.
To facilitate joint inspections, the two agencies will provide training for their inspectors to help them learn more about the hazards in the workplace. In addition to sharing training materials, the agencies will also conduct periodic training programs for their respective personnel. For example, OSHA inspectors will receive training from EPA employees on how to deal with hazardous substances and environmental conditions. Aside from conducting joint inspections, the two agencies will also exchange contact information.
The new joint inspections between the EPA and OSHA will focus on a specific sector of the industry. Chemical and oil refineries may be targeted more closely under the new emphasis program on Process Safety Management. In addition, the revised Risk Management Program rule may require more inspections of petroleum refineries. Enforcement efforts will depend on new leadership at EPA and the Department of Labor. In the meantime, compliance officers should prepare for the inspections.
EPA's technical assistance for long-term cleanup to minimize public health threats
While environmental regulation advocates disfavor EPA for its slow response to environmental disasters, EPA can act swiftly when necessary to prevent widespread damage and protect human health. For instance, it was very slow to act when it came to PFAS substances - the harmful chemicals used in a variety of products and equipment. Even life-saving equipment like respirators and air filters is contaminated with these chemicals.
EPA's Technical Assistance for Long-Term Cleanup is an important tool to help states and communities deal with environmental hazards. It assists in the assessment, analysis, and implementation of cleanup measures to mitigate public health risks. The agency's Hazard Ranking System (HRS) is the primary screening tool for hazardous waste sites, and it assigns a score based on the toxicity of the substances and the risk of exposure. ATSDR also takes into account the proximity of the site to local population and the risks of exposure.
In order to meet the requirements under the Clean Water Act, EPA's Technical Assistance for Long-Term Cleanup to Minimize Public Health Threats program consists of three phases: a preliminary assessment, a site inspection, and a final evaluation. The PREDICT phase collects data related to public exposure to hazardous chemicals, determines whether short-term cleanup efforts are necessary, and eliminates sites that do not pose a health risk. The site inspection builds on the data gathered during the Preliminary Assessment, and includes on-site and off-site sampling and a field investigation.
In addition to the Technical Assistance for Long-Term Cleanup, the agency's Environmental Stewardship Program oversees many environmental programs, including energy efficiency and pollution prevention. While the EPA has many other responsibilities, it does not address nuclear waste and wildlife. In addition to providing technical assistance, EPA has other programs to protect the environment and human health. Further, EPA's work in the area of environmental health protection involves enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.
EPA's responsibilities for detection and prevention of environmental crimes
As part of its mission to protect the environment, the EPA carries out several functions, including monitoring pollution levels, setting standards for hazardous chemicals, and investigating violations. Environmental crimes fall into two categories, criminal and civil. Civil offenses are punishable with monetary fines, while criminal charges require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The EPA encourages citizens to report suspected environmental crimes. In addition to investigating environmental crimes, the agency also works to prevent further pollution by enforcing environmental regulations.
The EPA has the authority to prosecute individuals who violate the law by distributing harmful materials and promoting illegal activities. It can pursue criminal and civil enforcement action against any party in a chain of commerce. In fiscal year 2020, EPA took 447 FIFRA civil enforcement actions. However, the agency opened 60 criminal cases related to suspected or confirmed unlawful sales of devices that made efficacy claims against SARS-CoV-2. Although 60 criminal cases represent only a small portion of the agency's civil enforcement activities, it represents a meaningful spike in EPA's use of criminal enforcement authority in a single year.
EPA's responsibilities for detection and preventing environmental crimes include restoring the stratospheric ozone layer, protecting the public from harmful UV radiation, and enforcing guidelines protecting the health of recreational waters. These responsibilities require the agency to be proactive in tackling the escalating challenges in the environment, including climate change and the threats associated with it. Additionally, the agency needs to protect human health, protect communities and ecosystems, and minimize the effects of global warming on the environment. Moreover, it must continue to protect human health and protect ecosystems from the impacts of toxic air pollutants.
Federal environmental laws also prohibit violations of the environment. These laws include the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which authorizes the E.P.A. to regulate hazardous waste and create a framework for the management of non-hazardous solid waste. In California, the Environmental Quality Act (CERCLA) is an important statute that requires local and state agencies to consider environmental protection when approving projects. Whenever possible, environmental protection should be the first consideration in any project.