EPA Solicits Comment on New National Compliance Initiatives

In a Federal Register notice today, EPA shared their National Compliance Initiatives (NCI) for 2020-2023 and asked for public comment and recommendations.  These National Compliance Initiatives help EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) focus on the most critical national issues.  The National Compliance Initiatives were formerly called National Enforcement Initiatives and the name change reflects EPA’s preferred proactive approach.  EPA wants their actions to help states and water systems solve problems, rather than just reacting to violations with enforcement. The 2020-2023 initiatives carry forward initiatives on air pollutants and chemical facility releases.  A previous initiative on industrial water pollutants transitions to one on NPDES compliance and a focus on energy extraction activities broadens to cover significant sources of VOC’s regardless of source.  Initiatives on air pollution from large sources and controlling raw sewage and stormwater discharges go back to their separate program areas for action and are replaced by two new initiatives that involve drinking water.

The first new NCI is to increase compliance with drinking water standards.  EPA feels that current approaches and tools have not always been effective in achieving compliance and they want to work with states to improve compliance and provide better public health protection.  This initiative would also support the goal in EPA’s Strategic Plan to reduce the number of community water systems out of compliance with health-based violations.  The second new NCI is to reduce children’s exposure to lead.  This would cover exposures from all media including drinking water.  Again, the initiative complements other EPA actions under the Lead Action Plan.

ASDWA met with OECA as they were considering the new NCIs and provided some state perspective.  That dialogue should continue as EPA adopts and implements the initiatives.  States are always looking for creative new approaches and tools, and willing to work with EPA to improve compliance and reduce lead exposure.  Hopefully, the initiatives will help us all make positive steps and not come with extra reporting and other burdens that may actually reduce state effectiveness.

Comments are being accepted until March 11, 2019, at www.regulations.gov using Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OECA-2018-0843.  These NCIs will become part of EPA’s draft National Program Guidance that will come out later in the year, providing another opportunity to comment.