In a February 8, 2019 Federal Register notice (84 FR 2848), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will be collecting public comments on the National Compliance Initiatives (NCIs) for 2020-2023. The goal of NCIs is to allow the Agency to focus enforcement and compliance resources on the most serious environmental threats and violations by developing and implementing a national priorities program. This program was previously called National Enforcement Initiatives. One of the NCI Program’s changes being proposed is to de-prioritize initiatives that prevent raw sewage from flowing into the nation’s waterways. The reason for this de-prioritization is that the Agency believes there has been sufficient progress in this area as a result of enforcement actions against municipalities, particularly those in older cities where stormwater and wastewater are collected in one pipe that leads to the treatment plant. The Agency has indicated these enforcement actions have resulted in major infrastructure project investment that has substantially mitigated the problem. Additionally, they note green infrastructure has helped reduce the water quality impacts of heavy rains and snow melts and is cost-effective and sustainable.
As part of the NCI Program, EPA is adding a new initiative to increase compliance with drinking water standards by focusing on National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit compliance rates to reduce the number of entities that are considered to be in Significant Non-Compliance (SNC). The Agency is collecting comments for 30 days following the February 8, 2019 notice posting in the Federal Register. A copy of the original Federal Register notice is available HERE. Information about the National Compliance Initiatives Program can be accessed on EPA’s website HERE. Any comments received in response to the Federal Register notice will be posted verbatim HERE and can be referenced using Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OECA-2018-0843.