In our June 30, 2024, blog, we wrote that according to one publication, they were anticipating a quickening of the pace of environmental regulations under the current administration. Since that time, we have seen a number of developments ranging from the PFAS TSCA Rule to a renewed focus on enforcement and now the use of enforcement and compliance to focus on climate.
The pace of environmental regulatory action has received attention from the legal community – especially the focus on air and climate.
The law firm Williams Mullen recently wrote, “The first three quarters of 2023 have seen an unprecedented number of rulemakings under the Clean Air Act. The Biden Administration has released a new suite of proposed rulemakings with a particular focus on climate change and air toxics.”
EPA Climate Enforcement Memorandum
The recent action by the EPA is likely to lead to more enforcement. On September 28, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Strategy issued a memorandum titled, “EPA’s Climate Enforcement and Compliance Strategy.”
In the EPA memorandum, the EPA establishes three new requirements.
- Prioritize Enforcement and Compliance Activities to Reduce Emissions of Greenhouse Gases
- Incorporate Climate Adaptation and Resilience Principles into All Enforcement and Compliance Activities
- Provide Technical Assistance and Build Climate Change Capacity Among EPA Staff and State and Local Partners
EPA Cites Their Reasoning
The EPA memo outlines their rationale for the new focus. “The climate crisis continues to accelerate: this year will be the warmest on record, with more billion-dollar weather events during the first eight months of the year than in any prior calendar year in the United States. Wildfires are no longer geographically limited, bringing death, catastrophic property damage, and unhealthy air to greater proportions of the country. Sea levels and ocean temperatures are rising dramatically. If we fail to take decisive action by the end of this decade, searing heat, widespread drought, destructive storms, and coastal flooding will become even more commonplace.”
Prioritizing Enforcement to Reduce GHGs
Commenting on the rule, Holland and Knight wrote, “…regulated entities in certain industry sectors with high GHG emissions, such as the oil and gas sector, should expect more targeted inspections and enforcement actions by EPA. Notably, the memorandum announces that EPA will seek greater compliance of the new source performance standards under the Clean Air Act (CAA) at oil and gas facilities and will, “prioritize enforcement actions to reduce emissions of other GHGs by addressing illegal activity related to carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.”
The Holland and Knight blog goes on to state that in response to the impacts of climate change and environmental justice concerns, the memorandum also directs the EPA to consider climate resilience across the board during enforcement actions and negotiation of administrative settlements. The EPA will be considering climate resilience in case conclusions whenever appropriate, such as including requirements for specific cleanup techniques or infrastructure improvements to protect communities vulnerable to climate change.
They further point out that facilities near “overburdened communities” should be aware that the EPA may target these areas for increased inspections and may seek “heightened requirements (including injunctive relief with tangible benefits for the community) to settle compliance violations.”
As noted above, if your company is one of those that the EPA may focus on for their climate enforcement and compliance efforts, you may want to prepare for potential scrutiny by the agency.
If you need assistance with an environmental issue, contact us at email@example.com or 248-932-0228.
Dragun Corporation does not use artificial intelligence in drafting our blogs or any other material.
Alan Hahn drafted this blog. Alan has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and completed a graduate program in Environmental Management. He has worked in environmental management for 45 years. He has written hundreds of blogs and articles. His published work includes Michigan Lawyers Weekly, Detroiter, Michigan Forward, GreenStone Partners, Manure Manager Magazine, Progressive Dairy, and HazMat Magazine.
Jeffrey Bolin, M.S., reviewed the blog. Jeff is a partner and senior scientist at Dragun Corporation. He is a published author, frequent speaker, and expert witness. His expertise in environmental due diligence, PFAS, vapor intrusion, and site assessments has led to projects in the US, Canada, and overseas. See Jeff’s Bio.
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