EPA’s Web Tools Heighten Transparency of Environmental Inspection and Compliance Data
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Compliance has launched a new website that offers some insight into the agency’s future plans and direction for sharing compliance-related information and ensuring that regulated companies follow the law. Prominently featured is the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database, which provides the ability for anyone with Internet access to download data to analyze violations at any of the 800,000 regulated facilities nationwide that are currently part of the system. Forthcoming regulations like the Electronic Reporting Rule for stormwater discharge permits are expected to increase the scope of construction-site data that is uploaded to the system.
Here are a few of the features on EPA’s new Office of Compliance website that the construction industry should be aware of:
- At the heart of EPA’s compliance program is the inspections of regulated sites and facilities. EPA’s new site explains how they are conducted.
- The new site provides easy access to ECHO, an online tool that EPA is calling “one of [its] most important and popular resources.” ECHO lets anyone analyze compliance and enforcement data (e.g., information about permit data, environmental inspections, violations, and enforcement actions and penalties assessed for EPA-regulated facilities) through dashboards, maps and charts. EPA touts that the site is updated weekly and visited more than 2 million times a year.
- The site provides information about EPA’s Next Generation Compliance program, which emphasizes electronic compliance reporting and greater public availability of compliance information.
- On a more positive note, the new EPA site prominently links to the Compliance Assistance Centers, including the AGC-sponsored Construction Industry Compliance Assistance (CICA) Center (www.cicacenter.org). The recently upgraded CICA Center offers contractors comprehensive tools and the latest information on state and federal environmental requirements as well as green construction and environmental management programs.
Public Access to Your Environmental Inspection and Compliance Data
In the near term, AGC members may want to consider assigning a representative to access and monitor what EPA is posting about their facilities. Some contractor firms have reported errors in the data that is displayed in the system. As more information on construction sites gets uploaded to ECHO, it will become increasingly important for companies to take steps to monitor and correct any erroneous data.
ECHO can be used to display trends in compliance and enforcement data through dashboards, maps, and charts. Some AGC members already are using ECHO to analyze and benchmark themselves against other regulated facilities in their region. Similarly, construction firms can use ECHO to monitor compliance across their own jobsites/facilities. Project owners and investors may use ECHO to factor environmental performance into their decisions.
To find out more, please contact AGC's Senior Environmental Advisor Leah Pilconis at email@example.com.
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