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By Claire DeMarco, Events Marketing Intern

VelocityEHS recently hosted the webinar “EPA Enforcement: Maintaining Compliance in 2023 & Beyond,” presented by Senior EHS & ESG Content Manager, Greg Duncan. This session summarized:

  • The basics of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) key laws and regulations, enforcement policies, and the consequences of the penalties.  
  • What current reporting standards are under National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (NECI) and what future enforcement priorities may look like.
  • The most relevant current news regarding EPA compliance advisories and enforcement alerts.
  • The best practices organizations use to adapt to evolving standards.

What are Some of the Key Existing EPA Regulations?

The EPA enforces more than 30 pieces of environmental legislation and hundreds of subsequent regulations that could affect your business. Greg addressed the four which have the biggest impact on businesses:

The Clean Air Act (CAA)

The Clean Air Act (CAA) establishes, by far, the most complex set of regulations and the largest in terms of volume of text. The CAA law regulates air emissions from both stationery and mobile sources, requiring states to develop State Implementation Plans (SIPs) and maintain compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The law bases its permit requirements on a classification between major and non-major sources of air pollution, as well as its designation of what are considered hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), among other air contaminants. The compliance standards set for HAP, called the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) require routine compliance monitoring and reporting, as well as standards for New Source Review (NSR) and Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD).

The Clean Water Act (CWA)

The Clean Water Act (CWA) prohibits unpermitted releases of pollutants into the “Waters of the United States” and regulates the quality of surface waters. Facility-specific permits specify what substances to monitor, how to monitor them, the amount to monitor, and set requirements for reporting. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) establishes the framework for permitting of individual facilities based on specific pollutant discharge characteristics of the facility. NPDES permits are typically issues by states with EPA-approved state plans, or by federal EPA in states without an approved state plan. Many states, under EPA guidelines, now have the option to accept Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs) electronically using NetDMR online reporting.

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) outlines the requirements surrounding emergency planning and “Community Right-to-Know” reporting for hazardous and toxic chemicals. Sections 301 to 304 detail emergency planning and emergency notification requirements, providing standards for chemical emergency response plans and methods to report accidental releases. Sections 311 to 313 define “Community Right-to-Know” requirements, as well as what chemicals present at covered facilities must be reported publicly through the Toxics Reporting Inventory (TRI) Form R.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) equips the EPA with “cradle-to-grave” oversight and control over the entire lifespan of hazardous waste from generation to transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal. No matter how much they emit, all waste generators have basic requirements intended to ensure that waste is properly identified, managed, and treated prior to disposal. A facility’s hazardous waste generation types and amounts will determine its generator status (VSQG, SQG, or LQG), and different requirements may apply for reporting, manifesting, and waste minimization activities, depending on generator status.

EPA Enforcement and Initiatives

Many environmental statutes contain both civil and criminal penalty provisions, with civil liability often resulting in adverse settlements and monetary penalties, injunctive relief, and involuntary Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEP), while criminal liabilities can bring criminal fines, restitution, and even incarceration.

EPA has limited enforcement resources in terms of its number of inspectors and number of facilities it can inspect each year. EPA openly publishes its enforcement directives and strategies, giving regulated businesses valuable insight into what current and future enforcement policies the agency will pursue. The EPA uses National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (NECI) to prioritize and complete a variety of inspections from facilities across the US to ensure compliance. Future NECIs could include mandates to reduce exposure to lead, as well as addressing coal combusting residuals. Additional proposed NECIs for the 2024-2027 period will also include:

Risk Management Program (RMP) Rule

The CAA requires that EPA take an active role in preventing chemical accidents involving hazardous substances by publishing regulations and mandating Risk Management Plan requirements for certain facilities to ensure they are prepared for chemical emergencies and to minimize accidental chemical releases.

Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP)

EPA has outlined 41 categories of covered industry and facility types who must calculate their GHG emissions using prescribed methodologies and submit annual emissions reports that are then verified.

How Can Regulated Businesses Strengthen and Simplify Compliance?

Robust Monitoring & Reporting Systems

To enforce environmental regulations, the EPA heavily relies on facilities to accurately self-report, meaning they must have highly capable monitoring, analysis, and reporting systems. For instance, businesses need to be capable of tracking the environmental metrics prescribed by various EPA regulations and have that data accessible within a system that aligns with EPA reporting interfaces and requirements.

Integrate Permit & Compliance Monitoring with Action Item Tracking

Regulated facilities should also establish systems for automating action item assignment and status tracking when events such as permit exceedances, waste accumulation amounts or times are surpassed, or reporting deadlines are approaching. By automating permit actions and other compliance action item assignments, you’ll be able to not only quickly respond to these events, but anticipate them and adjust operations to ensure you stay in compliance.

Perform Applicability Analysis Regularly

EPA regulations are highly complex, and state environmental requirements can vary from federal standards. To ensure your business is maintaining compliance with all applicable regulations, perform an applicability analysis regularly. Unless you have an in-house compliance and legal team to perform this analysis for you, consider utilizing compliance consultants and regulatory content providers.

By continuously analyzing, assessing, and improving environmental compliance, your organization will strengthen your overall environmental management program and, in turn, Environmental Social Governance (ESG) performance.

VelocityEHS Can Help!

Penalties for non-compliance are only going up and even a single violation can quickly turn into a significant financial blow that could sink your business. VelocityEHS offers a comprehensive suite of EHS & ESG software solutions that make it easier to manage compliance with a wide range of EHS regulations, helping you to avoid penalties for non-compliance and protect worker health and safety, and the environment.

Our Environmental Compliance Solution, part of the VelocityEHS Accelerate® Platform, gives you advanced technology tools for monitoring, reporting, and maintaining compliance with a broad range of CAA, CWA, RCRA, EPCRA, and other environmental requirements while forming the foundation for an environmental management program rooted in continuous improvement principles.

Request a demo today to learn more about the VelocityEHS Accelerate® Platform’s range of EHS & ESG solutions and see how we can help you simplify compliance, automate complex and time-consuming compliance tasks, and build a safer and more sustainable workplace.