The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to announce on Friday a new policy that could help avoid costly legal battles over companies violating pollution standards in the oil and gas industry, by encouraging them to self-report and fix violations rather than wait for EPA to conduct investigations, The Hill reports, citing an EPA source with knowledge of the plan.
The head of the office of enforcement of EPA, Susan Bodine, plans to announce the policy—which is not yet finalized—at an event in Dallas today.
EPA’s new policy will be focused on giving oil and gas firms more flexibility if they elect to self-audit their emissions and report violations, The Hill quoted the EPA employee as saying.
The new policy is expected to be launched as a pilot program at first, focusing only on providing oil and gas companies with more audit alternatives, first only for recently acquired firms audited by their new owner.
One flexibility for the oil and gas industry that EPA is mulling over is to extend the period of time that companies will have to fix their pollution after having reported the violation to EPA.
According to The Hill’s EPA source, the new policy is part of the Trump Administration’s idea to find alternatives to costly formal lawsuits. The new plan will also be used to highlight the message that the “audit refresh” is “open for business”, the source told The Hill.
Since 1995, EPA has been offering incentives to companies that promptly report to EPA and then fix the problem.
Under EPA’s current Audit Policy, companies can enjoy penalty mitigation if they meet nine criteria, including systematic discovery, voluntary discovery of violations, prompt disclosure to EPA within 21 days, independent discovery and disclosure, correction and remediation within 60 days, and prevention of violation recurrence.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com