By Karen Brignac, Environmental Compliance Manager
Last year the EPA Administrator Michael Regan embarked on a “Journey to Justice” tour through “communities historically and disproportionately impacted by pollution” in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In a statement released January 26, he outlined a series of broad policy actions in response to what he heard from residents during that tour. These include:
- Committing EPA to aggressively use its authority to conduct unannounced inspections of suspected non-compliant facilities as needed to protect public health. When facilities are found to be non-compliant, EPA will use all available tools to hold them accountable.
- Deploying a new program to expand air monitoring capacity, utilizing assets such as the ASPECT airplane, GMAP mobile air monitoring vehicle, and additional air pollution inspectors to enhance enforcement.
- Mobilizing agency resources to invest in community air monitoring to better protect people and public health in vulnerable areas.
- Pressing state and local elected officials to take urgent action to better protect the most overburdened communities.
- Holding companies more accountable for their actions in overburdened communities with increased monitoring and oversight of polluting facilities.
- Applying best available science to agency policymaking to safeguard public health and protect the environment.
As a former environmental manager at a Baton Rouge chemical plant, I was immediately drawn to the first bullet. While EPA has always had the authority to conduct inspections whenever they choose, in practice they have relied on the state agencies to conduct routine inspections. These inspections vary in their thoroughness based on the experience of the inspector, the size of the facility and the time allotted for the inspection.
Inspection Plan Changes
The EPA statement expanded on the inspection plans as follows:
“EPA is announcing today a new Multi-Scale Monitoring Project called the Pollution Accountability Team (PAT) to provide strong environmental compliance and monitoring in the south, launching in Spring 2022. This program combines high-tech air pollution monitoring with boots-on-the-ground inspectors to address pollution and enhance enforcement at a community scale.
“EPA’s ASPECT airplane will monitor facilities from the sky while mobile vehicles like EPA’s GMAP will monitor pollution from the ground. At the same time, a team of inspectors from across EPA regions will follow up to investigate any emission detection findings at specific sites.
“The PAT pilot program will also work to develop and/or acquire new instrumentation to measure newly emerging contaminants, such as chloroprene and ethylene oxide. More details on this program will be available in the coming weeks, including a schedule for meetings with communities. “
How This Impacts You
Facilities with Title V air permits have to report any deviations from permit conditions semiannually. Could a self-reported deviation be considered a suspected non-compliant facility? If the air monitoring detects emissions at the fenceline of your facility are you prepared to respond to questions about those emissions? Do you have a team of environmental professionals ready to spend days or weeks with the inspectors?
Now is the time to ensure your facility is ready for a full blown EPA air inspection which could involve a team of people who will show up unannounced and come in suspecting you are out of compliance.
PPM has experienced auditors who can evaluate your program and help you prepare. This includes reviewing site operations to be sure your permit is complete, reviewing required records to be sure every single one is available and filled out properly, reviewing emission calculations to be sure they accurately represent your operations, and preparing your personnel for potential questions from the inspectors. Once we are familiar with your facility we can also assist should EPA show up.
EPA will begin inspections in the spring; this is just around the corner so don’t wait to get prepared. To learn more about how PPM can help, call Karen Brignac at 225-293-7270.
Environmental Compliance Manager, Baton Rouge, LA
PPM Consultants, Inc.
Link to the full EPA statement:
Keeping our ears to the ground so that you don’t have to
Navigating the changing landscape of environmental regulation can be challenging in the best of times, to say nothing of drastic policy or enforcement changes. PPM can help you find your way through ever-tightening regulations and sudden air quality inspections, creating a plan with you to anticipate and address heightened regulatory scrutiny. To learn more about what PPM can do for you, call Karen Brignac at 225-293-7270 or contact us here.