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EPA Enforcement to Develop a National Priority Site List


The EPA has recently announced a national priority sites methodology for determining which licensed sites are an enforcement priority. This new reporting/enforcement tool is principally based on a site’s licence compliance and enforcement history.  Priority lists have been used by the Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE) for a number of years now in order to focus resources on underperforming sites. However it is intended that this list will be published.

It is important to note that this National Priority Site List is not intended to replace the Risk-Based Methodology for Enforcement (RBME), but instead work alongside it. The RBME focuses on fixed attributes such as location, proximity to receptors, class of activity, etc., whereas the Priority List methodology is based on the environmental issues and compliance record of a site.

The priority list is effectively a scoring system for a licensee’s compliance over the previous year. The OEE will re-calculate this score every 3 months on a rolling basis. As such this means that the priority list is dynamic whereby licensees move up and down the list based on their score for the previous 12 months only. The idea behind re-evaluating on a quarterly basis is to ensure that both improvements and deteriorations on sites are reflected on the list.

There are four main “scoring” aspects to the methodology:

  • Compliance Investigations;
  • Incidents received by the Agency from the licensee;
  • Complaints received by the Agency;
  • Non-compliances issued by the Agency.


Compliance Investigations

A compliance investigation (CI) is opened when an issue exists that is causing or has potential to cause an environmental effect and the OEE feels it merits further investigation. Each open CI is given a score based on its rating (i.e.; low 3 points, medium 10 points, high 20 points). CIs that are still open are scored higher than ones that have been closed out. Finally the OEE has decided that, in the case of multiple CIs, only the 3 highest scoring CIs will be counted.


Incidents reported

There are 5 categories of Incidents:

  • Catastrophic (30 points)
  • Very Serious (20 points)
  • Serious (10 points)
  • Limited (2 points)
  • Minor (0 points)

For each incident the OEE will assign a score based on the severity. Minor incidents will not incur any score as they generally do not have a large environmental impact.


Complaints (1 point per complaint)

Complaints will only be counted once they have been validated by the OEE and linked to a Compliance Investigation. The OEE has also set a cap meaning that a maximum of 30 complaints will be counted.


Non-compliances (Basic 1 point/Non-notification of an incident 5 points)

All non-compliances issued by the Agency in the previous 12 months are counted.

The National Priority Site List will only include the names of sites that incur a score >30 points.  The OEE plans to contact any licensees on the list in January 2016 and inform them of their score and their position on the list. Sites that have a score >20 but < 30 will also be advised of their score. Although they will not be on the list they will be made aware that they are approaching the limit and may need to implement preventative measures. The Agency plans to make the list available to the public during 2016, although no date has been announced as yet.

January 2016