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On April 30th, 2021, the Acting Assistant Administrator at the EPA issued a memo entitled “Strengthening Enforcement in Communities with Environmental Justice Concerns”.

In this memo, the EPA is instructing their offices to strengthen the enforcement of violations related to cornerstone environmental statutes.  The memo asks EPA staff to “think creatively” about developing settlement agreements related to pollution noncompliance.

Examples of what the memo is calling for are presented below.

  • Increasing the number of facility inspections in overburdened communities.
  • Prevention of further pollution due to noncompliance.
  • Mitigation of past impacts from pollution.
  • Seeking penalties for violations that impact overburdened communities.
  • Seeking early and innovative relief (fence-line monitoring and transparency tools).
  • Incorporating Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) in settlements, where appropriate.
  • Assisting and seeking to obtain restitution for victims of environmental crimes.

The EPA also wants to increase engagement with communities about enforcement cases that most directly impact them.  The EPA wants to:

  • Provide more information to communities about facilities, pollution, and enforcement activities, through appropriate and available means such as press releases and public meetings.
  • Empower communities by increasing awareness of enforcement program resources and make it easier for the public to search for EJSCREEN information and Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) data.
  • Increase opportunities for community engagement in the development of cleanup and reuse agreements to ensure community concerns are addressed in a meaningful manner.

The memo also encourages EPA offices and regions to develop press releases that highlight the elements of an enforcement action that helps a community.

Stay tuned as Spirit continues to track this, and other important developments that may affect the industries we all work in.

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