EPA recently released its draft “FY 2014-2018 EPA Strategic Plan” for public review and comment.  The Plan generally outlines the Agency’s regulatory, policy, and enforcement goals for next year through 2018.  As part of the Plan, EPA summarizes its specific priorities for “Enforcing Laws and Assuring Compliance” with environmental requirements (pages 42-45).  EPA notes that it will pursue “vigorous civil and criminal enforcement” that will target “the most serious water, air, and chemical hazards in communities in order to obtain compliance.”

EPA plans to enforce its various programs through a “new paradigm” called “Next Generation Compliance.”  The Plan describes the system as one that will support enforcement activities by allowing for electronic reporting, advanced monitoring, electronic responses to electronically-reported violations, and other features that will increase transparency and efficiency.  With a nod to EPA’s environmental justice policies, the Plan notes that ensuring compliance and effective data sharing is “particularly important” where noncompliance disproportionately impacts low-income, minority, and tribal communities.

With regard to specific media and industry sectors, the Plan includes the following:

Climate Change and Air Quality.  EPA will continue to focus on the “largest sources” of air pollution and specifically references coal-fired power plants, cement plants, acid production facilities, the glass industry, and the “energy extraction sector” as specific industry targets for enforcement.  The plan also highlights sources of air toxics generally and notes that EPA will work to “ensure compliance with climate change standards,” including GHG reporting rules.

Water Quality.  EPA will continue to focus on “getting raw sewage out of water and reducing pollution from stormwater runoff.”  The enforcement program will also address pollution from animal waste, and cleaning up large aquatic ecosystems like the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes.

Contaminated Sites.  The Plan notes that EPA will “aggressively” pursue responsible parties to clean up contamination and make properties available for reuse.

Chemical Safety.  EPA will “reform” chemical management requirements to reduce exposure to pesticides and other chemicals.

Permitting and Compliance.  EPA notes that it is building on recent successes in “innovative compliance approaches” to enhance the Agency’s ability to “find and document violations through new targeting tools and data analysis to better identify, publicize, and respond to the most serious violations.”  EPA cites its 2009 Drinking Water Targeting Tool as one example.  On the technology front, EPA observes that new breakthroughs in monitoring, “advances in smart phone, GPS and other information technology, have made inexpensive, portable monitoring and measurement of air pollution possible today, not only for government regulators, but for the public as well.”

Finally, the enforcement portion of the Plan includes a substantial discussion of criminal enforcement for environmental violations.  Specifically, EPA states that its criminal enforcement program will focus on noncompliance involving releases to “all media” that involve “serious harm or injury; hazardous or toxic release; ongoing, repetitive, or multiple releases; serious documented exposure to pollutants; and violators with significant repeat or chronic noncompliance or prior criminal convictions.”

Public comments on the draft will be accepted through January 3, 2014.