Citizen Monitoring Motivates Companies To Purchase Advanced Equipment, EPA Says

Environment Reporter™ keeps you fully up to date on rapidly changing developments in courts, Congress, federal agencies, state legislatures, industry, and environmental organizations.

By Rachel Leven  

June 5 — Citizens who monitor emissions of industrial facilities are driving companies toward purchasing their own advanced emissions monitoring equipment, Cynthia Giles, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, said June 5.

This may lead to more complete and accurate emissions calculations and help the facilities address future or unknown existing violations, Giles said at an American Law Institute event.

“Real-time feedback to the facility about what the problems are is the most effective way to get ahead of their pollution problems,” Giles said.

As it is, community monitoring has become an essential part of the EPA's enforcement strategy with budget constraints because the agency can't have as many inspectors on the ground as it had in previous years. More citizens are purchasing cell phone-sized monitors to measure local facilities' emissions and are sending those numbers, or sometimes videos, to the EPA, Giles said.

Giles said those citizen submissions have helped the EPA note serious violations of environmental laws, such as the blockbuster case against Tonawanda Coke Corp., which the government said released benzene into the nearby community and improperly managed hazardous waste. A federal judge ordered the facility near Buffalo, N.Y., to pay $24.7 million for Clean Air Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act violations.

Compliance Versus Enforcement

The private sector has told Giles it wants to have “more accurate and more robust” equipment than community members, and community monitoring efforts are motivating them to install their own monitoring equipment, she said.

Having the equipment installed can help some facilities find flaws in their programs that they may not have realized were problems, she said, such as identifying emissions that are higher than previously calculated and addressing them. It also helps facilities ensure compliance with environmental laws and permits, instead of finding out these problems through enforcement actions, Giles said.

Giles also pointed to a recent EPA proposed rule that would limit air toxics emissions from petroleum refinery flaring and other operations as bolstering monitoring requirements for industry. The standards specifically include monitoring requirements for the refineries, Giles said.


To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Leven in Washington at rleven@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com