EPA Proposes Enforcement Initiatives Addressing PFAS, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice

On January 19, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Notice soliciting public comment on its proposal to add environmental justice, climate change, and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination to its National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (NECIs) for the 2024–2027 fiscal year cycle.

The NECIs guide the EPA’s enforcement efforts by focusing resources on several priority areas that represent “serious and widespread environmental problems.” According to the Notice, the NECIs are intended to advance the EPA’s Strategic Plan goals of addressing climate change and advancing environmental justice. To that end, the EPA indicates that it is planning to address environmental justice concerns in all of the NECIs and incorporate climate resiliency considerations where appropriate.

The EPA plans to continue four of the current six NECIs for fiscal years 2024–2027: (1) Creating Cleaner Air for Communities by Reducing Excess Emissions of Harmful Pollutants; (2) Reducing Risks of Accidental Releases at Industrial and Chemical Facilities; (3) Reducing Significant Non-Compliance in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program; and (4) Reducing Non-Compliance with Drinking Water Standards at Community Water Systems. The EPA proposes to conclude the remaining two current NECIs — Reducing Toxic Air Emissions from Hazardous Waste Facilities and Stopping Aftermarket Defeat Devices for Vehicles and Engines — and return them to the core enforcement program to be addressed by standard enforcement and compliance assurance measures as appropriate.

The EPA’s two new proposed NECIs are Mitigating Climate Change and Addressing PFAS Contamination. In addition, the EPA is considering additional NECIs to reduce lead exposure and/or address coal combustion residuals. The Notice also invites the public to propose other areas for consideration as a NECI.

Comments may be submitted on or before March 13, 2023, via the Federal eRulemaking Portal.