EPA, DEEP Leaders Share Enforcement Priorities
From equity and environmental justice to economic development, government agencies consider a range of factors when it comes to environmental regulation and enforcement.
EPA Region 1 Administrator David Cash and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes [pictured above] addressed enforcement priorities and the impact on the regulated community at CBIA’s June 15 2023 Energy & Environment Conference.
“Compliance assurance is really the gold standard of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Dykes told the crowd of more than 170.
“If we aren’t seeing companies, businesses, permanent individuals, complying with those standards, what’s the reason why?
“In many cases, it can be a lack of investment, it can be a lack of resources, or technical assistance to help folks be able to achieve the standards that are required.”
“Part of what’s amazing about the enforcement side of the house right now is it’s more and more linked with the incentives side of the house,” added Cash.
“You can think of the marriage of carrots and sticks at the same time.”
Cash and Dykes both highlighted the importance of federal funding through the EPA to states, municipalities, NGOs, and businesses.
Much of that funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.
“It’s much easier to be working with the city or town on the enforcement side when they know there’s an influx through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, of hundreds of millions of dollars of additional funding,” he said.
“It’s made those kinds of negotiations and the solutions a whole lot easier.”
Cash and Dykes cited examples like enforcing a wastewater treatment plant, addressing emissions by changing out diesel school buses for electric ones, and adding electric vehicle charging stations around the state.
“It’s also an urgent time for us to be working hard to provide for clear development pathways,” Dykes said.
Dykes said Connecticut is pursuing federal funding for several initiatives to improve the state’s energy infrastructure.
“We know that a lot of energy infrastructure, like infrastructure everywhere, is being impacted by some of those economic headwinds of higher interest rates, labor supply chain challenges and so on that have emerged during the pandemic,” she said.
That includes partnering with states across the Northeast on a hydrogen hub application to the Department of Energy, and efforts to boost power transmission through offshore wind integration and through ties with Canada.
Cash said investments in a clean energy economy, also means an investment in job training.
“It’s exciting to see those kinds of matches where we’re trying to enforce to get cleaner air and we’re making huge investments in communities to get cleaner air,” he said.
Environmental justice is a key enforcement priority for both EPA and DEEP.
“There’s no denying the data on this,” said Cash, “whether it’s water or air, low-income disadvantaged communities, communities of color, bear an unfair burden of pollution.”
Dykes highlighted the passage of SB 1147 during the 2023 General Assembly session. That legislation modernizes and updates the state’s environmental justice laws.
Dykes said the bills goals were to “ensure that we can take account of cumulative impacts in permitting or affecting facilities that are located in environmental justice communities so that we can begin to really take account of data and a variety of different factors and consider what those impacts will be.”
Cash said the EPA is focusing on changing its enforcement to protect those communities.
Mapping tools are helping them iThey’re using tools like mapping to identify communities that have been overburdened over time.
Cash said one focus area in those communities is lead from paint, water pipes, and in the soil.
They work with small businesses to make sure they are following proper remediation, and rules.
“We’re trying to strike this balance of enforcing to protect primarily kids in this case, but do so in a way that supports the local economy as well,” Cash said.
They’re also utilizing public education and technical assistance to communicate why they’re doing the enforcement and the impact it has.
“These kinds of activities level the playing field,” he said.
“They level the playing field between those companies who are investing to make sure they comply with everything and those that don’t.
“And that’s exactly what these kinds of enforcement activities that we do are designed to address.”
Dykes also discussed plans for waste management in the state.
“We know that we have a crisis in our waste sector in the state,” Dykes said, “both from an environmental standpoint with the loss of the MIRA waste energy facility, but also from an economic standpoint.
“Our municipalities are seeing significant increases, an average increase of about 40%, in tipping costs over the last several years as a result of losing our self-sufficiency and managing our waste in-state.”
Connecticut ships out 860,000 tons of waste every year.
When it was running, the MIRA facility handled about one third of the waste generated in the state.
During the legislative session, the General Assembly focused on reducing the amount of waste in the stream, increasing recycling efforts, and increasing source separation.
However, lawmakers did not pass legislation that addressed waste diversion.
That bill originally included extended producer responsibility for packaging materials, various post-consumer responsibility policies, and source separation.
Dykes said DEEP will continue to work with members of the legislature on next steps.
She said they are also supporting grant programs that help municipalities cover the startup costs of organics collection programs.
“Some of the communities that have participated, on average, have been able to reduce their total waste disposal tonnage by 20%,” she said.
CBIA’s 2023 Energy & Environment Conference was made possible thanks to the generous support of Dominion Energy Nuclear Connecticut, FuelCell Energy, Pullman & Comley LLC, Robinson+Cole, Day Pitney, The United Illuminating Company, Allnex , Shipman & Goodwin, and Vancord.
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