The Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled a comprehensive Climate Enforcement and Compliance Strategy which is set to enhance the way EPA approaches its enforcement and compliance programs, with a keen focus on mitigating climate change and addressing a range of pressing environmental issues. The strategy, unveiled by Assistant Administrator David Uhlmann for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, represents a significant step by the U.S. government in addressing climate and environmental challenges.
Prioritizing Climate Action
The strategy directs all EPA enforcement and compliance programs, including criminal, civil, cleanup, and federal facility enforcement actions, to prioritize climate change considerations. The EPA aims to hold polluters accountable for unlawful emissions contributing to climate change.
Furthermore, the strategy emphasizes the importance of incorporating climate resilience and adaptation requirements into enforcement cases. This approach is particularly seen as important for marginalized communities when taking on climate impacts.
Key Components of the Climate Strategy
The EPA’s Climate Strategy outlines three key components that will guide its enforcement and compliance activities:
- Mitigation of Climate Change — The EPA will prioritize enforcement and compliance actions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other climate pollutants. This includes stringent enforcement of greenhouse gas reporting requirements and limits on pollutants such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.
- Climate Adaptation and Resilience — The strategy mandates the inclusion of climate adaptation and resilience requirements in enforcement case conclusions when appropriate. This reflects a proactive approach to helping communities prepare for the impacts of climate change.
- Technical Assistance and Capacity Building — EPA staff will provide technical assistance to facilitate the adoption of climate-related solutions. This includes working closely with state and local partners to build climate change capacity and promote sustainable practices.
National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (NECIs)
To address the most critical environmental challenges, EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance has selected six priority areas as National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives for fiscal years 2024-2027. These initiatives are designed to provide focused attention and resources to the following areas:
- Mitigating Climate Change — This initiative focuses on reducing noncompliance with the Clean Air Act and the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act to combat climate change.
- Addressing PFAS Contamination — EPA aims to address exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and hold responsible parties accountable for contamination.
- Protecting Communities from Coal Ash Contamination — EPA targets the harmful effects of coal combustion residuals on communities, especially those with environmental justice concerns.
- Reducing Air Toxics in Overburdened Communities — Building on previous initiatives, EPA continues its efforts to reduce air pollution in communities, particularly those facing environmental justice issues.
- Increasing Compliance with Drinking Water Standards — This initiative focuses on ensuring that regulated drinking water systems comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act to provide safe drinking water to all communities.
- Chemical Risk Reduction — EPA will also continue existing initiatives that focus on providing safe drinking water and reducing the risk of deadly chemical accidents.
The EPA’s strategy aligns with President Biden’s call for a coordinated federal response to combat the climate crisis. Furthermore, it supports EPA Administrator Micheal Regan’s vision of addressing climate change as the top cross-cutting goal in the agency’s strategic plan.