Event Recap

EPA’s Cynthia Giles explains the agency’s “Next Generation Compliance” strategy and the need for the help of researchers.

By Gosia Labno

Many companies commit violations that are harmful to the environment and surrounding communities – from the BP oil spill to the exterminator Bugman that applied unapproved pesticide too close to a Utah home killing two children. It is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) job to protect against these violations and enforce environmental standards. But today, the agency is facing the significant challenge of widespread noncompliance. The EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Cynthia Giles, addressed this challenge and possible solutions at an Energy Policy Institute seminar on January 28th.

The EPA’s overarching strategy to improve enforcement and compliance has been dubbed “Next Generation Compliance,” and it consists of five possible solutions. Giles elaborated on each.

First, the EPA needs more effective rules to promote compliance.

“The key is simplicity,” said Giles, adding that people comply with something they understand and know. These include transparency as an accountability tool, such as a sticker on a car that shows gas mileage.

Second is advanced monitoring technology, including real-time monitoring. Knowing about technology as it is happening makes it easier to figure out what the problems are. Such technologies should incorporate community monitoring, which not only empowers individuals but also motivates facilities improve.

The third solution is electronic reporting, which, ideally, would include more than the facility sending an e-mail.

“There are many private sector reporting tools that are easy to use and are responsive to customer needs,” explained Giles.

Fourth is increased transparency, which drives better facility performance. A study on the effects of mailing compliance reports found that facilities that mailed reports had fewer violations than those that did not, with total violations down 30-44 percent and health violations down 40-57 percent.

Finally, innovative enforcement is important. This encompasses all of the aforementioned solutions as well as data analytics, fence line monitoring and new enforcement strategies, among others. Companies, such Lowe’s and Angie’s List are working with and promoting contractors who are following regulations like those that are lead-safe certified.

The big question that remains is: What can researchers do to help?

“My motivation is to see if I can inspire a couple of people here,” said Giles, “to help us see how we can be more effective.”

The path forward is to use next generation compliance to reduce pollution, and pursue tough civil and criminal enforcement violations that threaten communities and the environment. In order to effectively achieve these goals, Giles said that the EPA needs the help of economists and researchers from across disciplines to aid in figuring out what needs to be done in order to increase compliance and give firms the incentive to improve behaviors.

Event Description

Cost: Free

Contact Bethel Haile: bhaile@uchicago.edu

Areas of Focus: Environment
Definition
Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.
Climate Change
Definition
Climate Change
Climate change is an urgent global challenge. EPIC research is helping to assess its impacts, quantify its costs, and identify an efficient set of policies to reduce emissions and adapt...
Climate Law & Policy
Definition
Climate Law & Policy
As countries around the world implement policies to confront climate change, EPIC research is calculating which policies will have the most impact for the least cost.