Federal Government Compliance
One of EPA's most important roles is ensuring that Federal agencies comply with environmental requirements in the same manner and extent as any other regulated facility.
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EPA is responsible for ensuring that the federal government complies with all environmental laws, regulations and assists federal agencies with their environmental responsibilities required under Presidential executive orders. The federal government's properties include nearly 900,000 buildings and structures and 41 million acres of land. In fiscal year 2010, EPA concluded 52 enforcement actions against federal agencies and contractors at federal facilities for alleged violations of environmental laws. These actions will reduce, treat, or eliminate an estimated 311,000 lbs of pollutants. Violators will pay nearly $749,000 in penalties and invest an estimated $163 million in cleanup and improved operations to comply with environmental laws.
In fiscal year (FY) 2010 EPA took enforcement actions against federal agencies that made a difference in the air, water and land in local communities. For example:
- The General Services Administration (GSA) entered into an agreement by which it agreed to apply for a Clean Water Act permit which will place strict limits on the water it discharges related to construction projects at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, Colorado. GSA must also monitor its discharges and ensure the discharged water meets limits for organics and suspended solids and other pollutants. This will help protect the watershed of the South Platte River which runs through downtown Denver and is used for fishing, rafting and kayaking.
- EPA issued two orders with a total penalty of $163,000 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) agreed to permanently close over two dozen motor vehicle waste disposal wells in Alaska. These wells can contaminate underground sources of drinking water. The FAA is working with EPA to document the closing of the wells.
Federal government agencies are responsible for cleaning up 173 sites on the Superfund National Priority List (NPL). These cleanups directly impact the environment in their surrounding communities by protecting citizens from contamination of their air, water, land and groundwater. EPA oversees cleanups at these sites through enforceable agreements with the responsible federal agencies. EPA has oversight agreements in place at all of these NPL sites except for Andrews Air Force Base (MD), Air Force Plant #44 (AZ), Redstone Arsenal (AL), Tyndall Air Force Base (FL), and Ft. Detrick (MD).
In 2010, EPA settled three disputes that arose under these agreements:
- Jackson Park Housing Complex, WA: The Jackson Park Housing Complex is a residential and recreational area in Bremerton, WA with buried discarded military munitions. Because the area is publicly accessible, people may potentially be exposed to these munitions. The Navy’s draft analysis of what cleanup is needed at the site (called a feasibility study) did not include alternatives for cleaning up the munitions or having trained explosives technicians make sure that construction and maintenance in the area was not threatened by the buried munitions. The EPA Regional Administrator, in the EPA Region 10 office, required the Navy to include these treatment and control alternatives in the final feasibility study and affirmed a $45,000 stipulated penalty that EPA had assessed against the Navy.
- Defense Logistics Agency Tracy, CA: Groundwater at the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Tracy site in Tracy, CA is contaminated. One of the groundwater areas is contaminated with a pesticide, dieldrin, which was not being cleaned up by the DLA’s existing groundwater treatment system. Using the dispute process under an agreement with DLA, DLA agreed to install a groundwater pump-and-treat system capable of cleaning the dieldrin-contaminated groundwater.
- Former Naval Ordnance Depot, Hastings, NE: The groundwater at the former Naval Ordnance Depot, in Hastings, NE is contaminated with industrial solvents and munitions-related chemicals like TNT. Some of these chemicals have migrated beyond the site boundaries, so various measures to control well drilling and water use (referred to as institutional controls) are necessary to ensure people do not drink contaminated groundwater. EPA Administrator Jackson affirmed a prior EPA decision requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clarify exactly what on- and off-site institutional controls would be put in place to protect people from the contaminated groundwater and what the Corps would do to make sure those controls are working.
- Redevelopment of Federal Facilities: EPA supports and encourages the productive redevelopment of former federal facilities, as illustrated by activities at the former McClellan Air Force Base in California.
Compliance AssistanceFedCenter (www.fedcenter.gov), the federal facility Web-based environmental sustainability and compliance assistance center, is now cosponsored by more than a dozen federal organizations. The site has become the premier Website for federal environmental professionals and is a principal source for information on President Obama’s Executive Order 13514 long-term environmental sustainability of federal government agencies. In FY 2010, FedCenter marked its sixth year of operation and increased its membership by more than 25% to nearly 9,000 individuals. FedCenter now receives more than 137,000 hits a month,
In September 2010 over 900 federal facility environmental professionals, state officials, contractors and others nationwide participated in an initial federal facility compliance assistance webinar promoted by FedCenter. The Center now coordinates similar compliance assistance webinars about every six weeks.
More than 1,200 federal environmental officials and others participated in the first GreenGov Symposium, sponsored by the White House and supported by EPA and FedCenter. The symposium focused on implementing President Obama's Executive Order 13514 on environmental sustainability of the federal government.
EPA's Office of Federal Activities and its regional counterparts review and comment on other federal agencies’ Environmental Impact Statements (EISs). Agencies prepare the EISs to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and EPA reviews the documents under a provision in the Clean Air Act. EPA’s review is intended to help federal agencies identify and ultimately avoid or mitigate potential adverse environmental impacts from their projects. EISs also help promote transparency by enhancing public participation in government planning and decision-making. EISs help to facilitate a full and fair discussion of any significant environmental impacts and inform the decision-makers and the public of the reasonable alternatives available with a goal of avoiding or minimizing potential adverse impacts. In FY 2010, EPA reviewed over 500 EISs involving a wide range of federal projects.
Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Military Relocation
EPA worked successfully with the Department of Defense in FY 2010 through the NEPA process to address potential impacts to Guam's drinking and wastewater infrastructure from a proposed military personnel relocation.
The proposed military relocation is expected to increase Guam’s population by over 20 percent, which would quickly exceed the capacity of the current drinking and wastewater infrastructure. Already, Guam’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is currently in a chronic state of non-compliance with federal and local regulations. Residents on Guam experience public health threats from exposure to pathogens due to raw sewage spills and from contaminated drinking water.
In August of 2010, EPA reached an agreement with the Department of Defense on how to avoid and reduce impacts on Guam’s infrastructure and environmental resources by using alternative approaches to meet environmental standards. This process is known as “Adoptive Program Management” (APM). In this case, the process includes a commitment to manage the arrival of military personnel and the rate of construction so that the impacts associated with the military personnel build-up do not cause environmentally unacceptable conditions while the infrastructure upgrades are underway.
The APM process will be implemented through creation of a Civil-Military Coordination Council that would monitor environmental impacts and infrastructure capacities, coordinate discussion among the Department of Defense, the Government of Guam, and federal agencies, and provide advice and recommendations to avoid and reduce potential significant environmental impacts.
Mountaintop mining is a form of surface coal mining in which explosives are used to access coal seams, generating large volumes of waste that bury adjacent streams. The resulting waste that then fills valleys and streams can significantly compromise water quality, often causing permanent damage to ecosystems and rendering streams unfit for swimming, fishing and drinking. It is estimated that almost 2,000 miles of Appalachian headwater streams have been buried by mountaintop coal mining.
In April 2010, EPA issued comprehensive guidance clarifying the standards for reviewing Clean Water Act permit applications for Appalachian surface coal mining projects, including guidance to ensure a robust analysis of potential environmental impacts and project alternatives under the National Environmental Policy Act.
This guidance directs EPA field staff to coordinate with their federal and state regulatory partners to strengthen the environmental review of new Appalachian surface coal mining projects and to improve protection of the communities’ local water and environment. Read more on the Memorandum: Improving EPA Review of Appalachian Surface Coal Mining Operations