EPA recently revised its Enforcement Response Policy for High Priority Violations of the Clean Air Act: Timely and Appropriate Enforcement Response to High Priority Violations (the “HPV Policy”). Although the new Policy is dated August 25, 2014, it was only recently released to the public. In addition to EPA, the HPV Policy also applies to state, local, territorial, and tribal environmental enforcement agencies and is designed to prioritize enforcement actions for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. EPA describes the revisions as “substantial changes” and notes that the new policy “supersedes” a previous version of the HPV Policy issued in 1998. State/local agencies are directed to implement the changes beginning October 1, 2014.
Revisions to Previous Policy.
- The new policy is more streamlined (reducing the number of substantive criteria from 10 to 6), and it eliminates the complicated excess emissions matrix that was historically used to determine whether a source would be classified as an HPV.
- The new HPV instead uses a 7-day “cluster” approach for targeting excess emissions at stationary sources – an excess emissions event will be classified as HPV if the violation continues (or is expected to continue) even intermittently for at least seven days.
- We expect to see a renewed emphasis on the implementation of the new HPV Policy.
- Although it is unclear how EPA’s new 7-day “cluster” approach will be implemented, any extended excess emissions event will likely get significant scrutiny under the new Policy.
- If a facility is listed as an HPV, the Policy no longer allows agencies to close out HPV investigations by simply reporting that the “Source Returned to Compliance.” Instead, enforcement agencies are required to address/resolve the matter through the issuance of formal, enforceable compliance orders/consent decrees that impose penalties or otherwise force a return to compliance.