Enforcement has long been a central component of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) administration of the nation’s environmental laws. EPA’s latest strategic plan identifies as one of its five strategic goals protecting human health and the environment by enforcing laws and assuring compliance. Yet, outside observers such as the Government Accountability Office and EPA’s own inspector general have offered critical assessments of EPA’s performance in promoting compliance. The agency itself has identified a series of ongoing challenges in its enforcement and compliance promotion efforts, including gaps in information about the compliance status of regulated entities, unacceptably high rates of noncompliance, deficiencies in state enforcement of delegated programs, and substantial shortcomings in managing (collecting and transmitting) compliance-related information. These long-standing concerns have been exacerbated recently by an expansion of the size of the regulated community, significant resource constraints, and differentiated responsibilities among regulated sources, which exacerbate the difficulties of tracking compliance.
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