On November 19, 2013, the EPA released its 2014-2018 draft strategic plan (the “Plan”) seeking public comments until January 3, 2014. The 86 page plan lays out five strategic goals and identifies individual goals and objectives within each of the five main areas. Each of the goals are discussed below, but the most striking part of the Plan is EPA’s acknowledgement that environmental inspections and the initiation of civil judicial and administrative enforcement cases will decline significantly over the next five years.

The first strategic goal, not surprisingly, is “Addressing Climate Change and Improving Air Quality” through the reduction of greenhouse gases (“GHG”). Specifically, the Plan discusses implementing vehicle and truck GHG standards in conjunction with the Department of Transportation by September 30, 2015. If your company has a large fleet of vehicles/trucks, this point is something to watch in the next two years. The Plan also continues the current EPA strategy of implementing additional GHG standards on any new power plants.

The Plan’s second goal is “Protecting America’s Waters.” The two primary objectives are to increase public health protection for persons served by small drinking water systems and to continue focus on stormwater. The stormwater is a national focus but there are several “key geographic areas” that will garner additional attention.

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is one of those key areas. You can anticipate continued focus on this issue throughout Virginia. The Plan also mentions the impact hydraulic fracturing is having on underground water sources and states that it will continue to monitor and implement regulations where appropriate.

The third goal is titled “Cleaning Up Communities and Advancing Sustainable Development.” As part of this objective, EPA is committing to conducting 26,350 assessments on brownfield properties and having 18,970 brownfield sites ready for use by 2015. It is worth noting that the EPA is seeking to conduct an additional 2,300 inspections at facilities with Risk Management Plans (RMPs). If your company has a facility with an RMP, it is important that you have yours in place and up to date immediately.

The fourth goal, “Ensuring the Safety of Chemicals and Preventing Pollution”, commits the EPA to completing 250 chemical assessments by September 30, 2015, and otherwise working through the more than 60,000 existing chemicals that were grandfathered under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The fifth objective is the most noteworthy as it discusses the decreasing number of inspections and enforcement presumably in recognition of ongoing budget cuts. For example, inspections and evaluations are expected to decrease approximately 6,000 per year from fiscal year 2012. EPA is expecting to initiate approximately 1,500 fewer civil judicial and administrative actions per year than it did over the five year span from 2005-2010.

EPA is rolling out its new enforcement/compliance paradigm called Next Generation Compliance. While the Plan is short on details, the program is designed to “achieve better compliance results by taking advantage of new information and monitoring technologies.” The program appears to dovetail with the EPA’s new push for electronic reporting (“E-Enterprise”).

While not a binding document, the Plan is a good road map of where EPA’s focus will be in the coming years. If you have any questions regarding the Plan, or want assistance in providing comments to EPA before the January 3, 2014 deadline, Woods Rogers is ready to assist.

Article brought to you by:
Daniel C. Summerlin III
Woods Rogers PLC President and Principal
Administrative and Regulatory; Environmental; Labor and Employment; Litigation and Dispute Resolution; Government Investigations and White Collar Criminal Defense Practice Groups