Sunday, October 25, 2009

EPA Vows Better Enforcement Of Clean Water Act

Published: October 15, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday that it would overhaul enforcement of the Clean Water Act, as lawmakers sharply criticized the agency’s decade-long lapses in punishing polluters.
E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, said that agency officials “are falling short of this administration’s expectations for the effectiveness of our clean water enforcement programs.”

“The time is long overdue for E.P.A. to re-examine its approach to Clean Water Act enforcement,” said Ms. Jackson, who was confirmed to her position in January. She added that the agency would set strict benchmarks for state regulators, eventually compel companies to submit electronic pollution records so violations could be detected and punished more easily, and “develop more innovative approaches to target enforcement to the most serious violations and the most significant sources.”

One approach will probably include a series of enforcement actions against companies and municipalities that have violated the Clean Water Act, according to people with knowledge of the E.P.A.’s plans who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The agency has not settled on a list of potential targets, but is likely to focus on mining companies, large livestock farms, municipal wastewater treatment plants and construction companies that operate sites where polluted stormwater has run into nearby lakes and rivers.

“Going forward, if states are falling down on the job, we’re going to reverse the permits they’ve issued, and if they’re not enforcing the law, we’ll step in and do it ourselves,” said one agency official.

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