Enforcement and Inspection

What to Expect from EPA over the Next 5 Years

Now, to achieve these goals, EPA promises to “Pursue vigorous civil and criminal enforcement that targets the most serious water, air, and chemical hazards in communities. Assure strong, consistent, and effective enforcement of federal environmental laws nationwide.”

The FY 2011–2015 EPA Strategic Plan is accompanied by five crosscutting fundamental strategies that seek to adapt into the Agency’s work to meet growing environmental protection needs.

The Five Strategic Goals

Goal 1: Taking Action on Climate Change and Improving Air Quality

This strategy supports President Obama’s GHG emissions reduction goals. EPA and its partners will reduce GHG emissions domestically and internationally through cost-effective, voluntary programs and through regulatory actions as needed.


  • Address Climate Change. Reduce the threats posed by climate change by reducing GHG emissions and taking actions that help communities and ecosystems become more resilient to the effects of climate change.
  • Improve Air Quality. Achieve and maintain health-based air pollution standards and reduce risk from toxic air pollutants and indoor air contaminants.
  • Restore the Ozone Layer. Restore the earth’s stratospheric ozone layer and protect the public from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation.
  • Reduce Unnecessary Exposure to Radiation. Minimize unnecessary releases of radiation and be prepared to minimize impacts should unwanted releases occur.

Goal 2: Protecting America’s Waters

Over the next 5 years, EPA will work with states, territories, and tribes to safeguard human health and protect and restore our waters to ensure that drinking water is safe and that aquatic ecosystems sustain fish, plants, and wildlife, and economic, recreational, and subsistence activities.


  • Protect Human Health. Reduce human exposure to contaminants in drinking water, fish and shellfish, and recreational waters, including protecting source waters.
  • Protect and Restore Watersheds and Aquatic Ecosystems. Protect the quality of rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands on a watershed basis, and protect urban, coastal, and ocean waters.

According to EPA, tens of thousands of homes, primarily in tribal and disadvantaged communities and the territories, still lack access to basic sanitation and drinking water. Additionally, the rate at which new waters are listed for water quality impairments exceeds the pace at which restored waters are removed from the list.

Goal 3: Cleaning Up Communities and Advancing Sustainable Development

EPA said that its highest priorities under this goal are to prevent and reduce exposure to contaminants and accelerate the pace of cleanups across the country. Recognizing that minority and/or low-income communities may face disproportionate environmental risks, the Agency is committed to ensuring environmental justice regardless of race, color, national origin, or income.


  • Promote Sustainable and Livable Communities. Support sustainable, resilient, and livable communities by working with local, state, tribal, and federal partners to promote smart growth, emergency preparedness and recovery planning, brownfield redevelopment, and the equitable distribution of environmental benefits.
  • Preserve Land. Conserve resources and prevent land contamination by reducing waste generation, increasing recycling, and ensuring proper management of waste and petroleum products.
  • Restore Land. Prepare for and respond to accidental or intentional releases of contaminants and clean up and restore polluted sites.
  • Strengthen Human Health and Environmental Protection in Indian Country. Support federally recognized tribes to build environmental management capacity, assess environmental conditions and measure results, and implement environmental programs in Indian country.

Goal 4: Ensuring the Safety of Chemicals and Preventing Pollution

According to the Agency, EPA is enhancing crosscutting efforts to advance sustainable practices, safer chemicals, greener processes and practices, and safer products.


  • Ensure Chemical Safety. Reduce the risk of chemicals that enter our products, our environment, and our bodies.
  • Promote Pollution Prevention. Conserve and protect natural resources by promoting pollution prevention and the adoption of other stewardship practices by companies, communities, governmental organizations, and individuals.

Goal 5: Enforcing Environmental Laws

According to EPA, vigorous civil and criminal enforcement will play a central role in achieving the other four goals. Through the enforcement program, EPA intends to increase enforcement actions in waters that do not meet water quality standards, aggressively pursue cleanups of contaminated sites, and target pollution problems that disproportionately impact low-income, minority, and tribal communities. One of the tools the Agency plans to employ in its enforcement efforts is “increased transparency.”

Translation: More of your facility’s information will be available to the public, and your community is increasingly encouraged and empowered to get involved in your operations.

Here are some of the enforcement actions EPA says it will take by 2015:

  • Conduct 105,000 federal inspections and evaluations.
  • Initiate 19,500 civil judicial and administrative enforcement cases and bring 19,000 to a conclusion.
  • Review the overall compliance status of 100 percent of open consent decrees.
  • Increase the percentage of criminal cases with charges filed to 45 percent (up from 36 percent).
  • Maintain an 85 percent conviction rate for criminal defendants.