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EPA Proposes To Add Climate Change, PFAS As New Compliance Initiatives To Advance Environmental Justice

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) focuses enforcement and compliance resources on the most serious and widespread environmental problems by developing and implementing national program initiatives. Every four years, the EPA revisits and selects national initiatives to prioritize available resources where federal enforcement can make a difference.

As part of that four-year cycle, the EPA is seeking public comment and recommendations on the National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (NECIs) for fiscal years 2024-2027 (formerly called National Compliance Initiatives). The EPA has developed this round of proposed initiatives to align with two of its strategic plan goals: 1) tackling the climate crisis and 2) taking decisive action to advance environmental justice. 

Of the six current initiatives, the EPA is proposing to return two to their core or standard enforcement program: reducing toxic air emissions from hazardous waste facilities and stopping aftermarket defeat devices for vehicles and engines. The agency is proposing to continue the following four ongoing initiatives:

  • Creating cleaner air for communities by reducing excess emissions of harmful pollutants

  • Reducing risks of accidental releases at industrial and chemical facilities

  • Reducing significant noncompliance in the national pollutant discharge elimination system program

  • Reducing noncompliance with drinking water standards at community water systems 

The two potential new NECIs are:

  • Mitigating Climate Change. The agency distinguished this initiative from other ongoing climate regulations as follows: “Although the EPA has sought to incorporate climate considerations in the current initiatives, with a particular focus on climate resiliency, this NECI would focus on achieving the agency's climate mitigation goals in order to reduce climate disruption and the increases in global temperatures that are likely to occur without enforcement of climate mitigation regulations.” 

  • Addressing PFAS Contamination. The focus of this NECI would be “on implementing the commitments to action made in EPA's 2021-2024 Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Strategic Roadmap.”

The EPA is also asking for comment on two additional areas to consider as possible NECIs to address noncompliance, obtain cleanups and deter future violations: reducing exposure to lead and addressing coal combustion residuals (CCR).

The agency is accepting comments on these proposals and is also receiving proposals for other initiatives to consider adding as NECIs through March 13, 2023.

© 2023 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume XIII, Number 23

About this Author

Bruce White litigation attorney Barnes Thornburg

With a practice that is national in scope, Bruce White has more than 35 years of experience in the litigation, arbitration and mediation of environmental disputes and administrative permitting and enforcement proceedings. Regardless of the difficulty or complexity of the matter, Bruce is dedicated to being client-focused and solving problems as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

Bruce represents industrial and commercial businesses and governmental entities in Superfund, RCRA/HSWA, TSCA, CWA, CAA and NEPA matters. He also advises on compliance with federal and state...

Erika K. Powers, Barnes Thornburg law firm, Chicago, Environmental and Litigation Law Attorney

Erika K. Powers is a partner in the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP. She is a member of the Environmental Department and concentrates her practice in the area of water quality. Ms. Powers advises municipalities, utility districts, trade organizations, and other regulated parties across the country on a wide variety of Clean Water Act issues, including wet weather management and wastewater treatment. She also assists clients in matters involving water quality standards, the listing and delisting of impaired water bodies, TMDL development and implementation, effluent limitations...

Richard Glaze Environmental Attorney Barnes Thornburg

Rich stands shoulder-to-shoulder with his clients – primarily corporations, municipalities, utilities and individuals – who need guidance regarding environmental permitting and compliance, transactional review and policy issues, and international investigations and audits.


Rich’s practice is focused on enforcement matters brought by federal and state agencies and the Department of Justice, including defense of environmental claims involving the major federal environmental statutes and their state counterparts.

He represents companies, municipalities and...

Of Counsel

Alex defends toxic tort and wrongful death claims arising out of alleged environmental and workplace exposures; CERCLA, RCRA and common law claims arising out of alleged environmental contamination; and OSHA citation and enforcement actions arising out of alleged workplace harms or exposures. He also counsels clients in evaluating and responding to alleged environmental misconduct in federal criminal investigations.

Alex is acutely aware of the challenges that can arise for clients in need of resolving a dispute. Because of that, he is attentive to particular facets of litigation,...