EPA Enforcement Program Seeks Public Ideas for Supplemental Environmental Projects
Ideas Could Be Included in Enforcement Settlements
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new effort to support the public in sharing their ideas for environmentally beneficial projects that could potentially be included in future enforcement settlements. These voluntary environmentally beneficial projects, called Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs), bring environmental and public health benefits beyond those required by law to communities impacted by a violation of an environmental law or regulation.
“We want to hear from communities scarred by pollution about what projects best address the public health and environmental harms they have endured,” said Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “While supplemental environmental projects must be tied to the risk or harm caused by the violation, public engagement regarding possible projects should lead to better outcomes, particularly in environmental justice communities.”
A SEP is an environmentally beneficial project or activity that is not required by law, but that a defendant voluntarily agrees to undertake as part of a settlement of an enforcement action. As it is tied to the settlement of violations, a SEP must reduce the risk or adverse impact to public health or the environment that the violations contributed to or reduce the likelihood of similar violations in the future.
SEPs help secure real public health and environmental benefits for communities harmed by environmental violations that result in an enforcement action. SEPs help address the disproportionate burden felt in many overburdened and underserved communities around the country by providing on the ground health benefits to address the harm caused by neighboring polluters. As a result, SEPs have been an important component of EPA’s enforcement program for decades. Over the past three decades, SEPs have been a part of over 2,800 settlements, bringing projects valued at over $860 million to communities and the environment.
EPA has long encouraged defendants to reach out to the communities affected by their violations to discuss SEP ideas. In addition, if the Agency is aware of projects with community support, EPA can provide such information to defendants, upon request, for their consideration. However, the method for how the public could share potential SEP ideas with EPA has not been consistent or centralized over the years in part because the public cannot participate in confidential settlement discussions. EPA’s enforcement program is piloting the use of an email inbox to accept ideas from the public for potential environmental and public health projects that could be discussed during settlement negotiations. Anyone can submit an idea through this email address.
Ideas for SEPs can be submitted to EPA at SEPideas@epa.gov. The following type of information would be useful to EPA and/or a defendant when evaluating a project idea:
- Short Title
- Detailed Description
- Public Health and/or Environmental Benefits
- Information about the Location
- Cost Information
In addition, the email inbox will allow a person to provide contact information, if so desired, in the event a defendant or settling party wishes to learn more about a proposed project idea.
More information about how to submit a SEP idea can be found on EPA’s SEP webpage.
In the past, SEPs in EPA settlements have been used to support projects that bring significant benefits to communities, including projects that (1) abate lead paint hazards in housing by removing and replacing windows and doors coated with lead-based paint; (2) reduce emissions from diesel engines through retrofits or replacement with cleaner engines (e.g., electric vehicles); and (3) enhance the emergency response capabilities of local fire departments or hazardous emergency response teams through donation of critical equipment. Going forward, defendants who are interested in implementing a SEP as part of a settlement to resolve violations of environmental laws will have an additional resource to find suggestions for SEPs that may be appropriate for both the risk or adverse impact of the violation and the community impacted.
Please keep in mind that a SEP project has to meet all the requirements of the Agency’s SEP Policy before it could be considered as part of a settlement, including that the defendant or settling party voluntarily agrees to do the project and the proposed project has a connection to the underlying violations, for example, fenceline air monitors to address Clean Air Act violations at a facility.
More information about SEPs, including EPA’s SEP Policy, Facts About SEPs and information about prior settlement agreements that include SEPs is available on EPA’s Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPS) web page.