The EPA has been touting its “Next Generation Compliance” initiative – but the proposed changes are far from revolutionary, says Thomas Echikson of law firm LeClairRyan, writing for Lexology.
Echikson says a recent explanation of the initiative by Cynthia Giles, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance, rests on a baseless assertion: that there is widespread environmental non-compliance, which the EPA’s current enforcement program can’t address.
Some proposed components of Next Generation Compliance are unrealistic, while others are vague, or describe processes already underway, the attorney argues. For example, the agency proposes that new technology, such as infra-red cameras, be adopted to detect emissions or discharges that previously went unnoticed. But most of these technologies are unable to actually quantify emissions.
Echikson says the most valuable part of the initiative is a shift to electronic reporting, which has the potential to help companies identify compliance problems and lower the cost of data submissions.
One recent example is the EPA’s proposed move from paper to e-reporting in an attempt to modernize enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Until now, facilities have had to submit data in paper form to states and other regulatory authorities, where the information must be manually entered into data systems. Through the e-reporting rule, these facilities will be able to electronically report their data directly to the appropriate regulatory authority.
Takeaway: The Next Generation Initiative’s emphasis on electronic reporting is welcome, but many of its proposals are vague and may be unworkable.
Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.