A Kinder Gentler EPA?
Throughout last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) repeatedly confirmed that regulated entities could expect the EPA’s focus to be on compliance programs rather than harsher enforcement actions. This reprioritization included renaming the EPA’s previously titled National Enforcement Initiatives to the National Compliance Initiatives, working more cooperatively with businesses before resorting to more punitive enforcement measures, and the EPA backing away from Obama-era policies it said were too strict.
In line with shifting its focus from enforcement to compliance, the EPA’s office of enforcement is expected to shortly unveil the New Owner Clean Air Act Audit Program (“NOCAAAP”), tailored specifically for oil and natural gas producers, and designed to increase polluter compliance on the front end. The NOCAAAP is expected to offer significant new penalty reductions for new company owners who choose to self-audit their emissions and self-report any failures to meet the EPA’s regulations. In addition to providing companies 180 days from the date of discovery to correct emissions issues, the new policy will also allow for 100% penalty mitigation for any company that opts into the audit.