Compliance and Enforcement

Compliance involves actions and programs designed to ensure that environmental laws and regulations are followed. Enforcement is warranted when a law or regulation has been violated in order to change behavior and deter future violations.

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Compliance and enforcement involves different aspects of a government’s legal and policy framework, and includes technical issues related to controlling air pollution in different sectors.  

General principles for developing effective compliance and enforcement programs include:  

  1. Design clear and enforceable measures;
  2. Use data to know about the regulated community and target enforcement actions where they will matter most;
  3. Undertake outreach, communication, and training activities to promote compliance
  4. Establish a “credible likelihood” of detecting violations (e.g., through source self-monitoring, reporting, recordkeeping, inspection, ambient and citizen monitoring, etc.);
  5. Employ a range of enforcement tools and sanctions;
  6. Establish clear roles and relationships across all levels of government;
  7. Make compliance data and enforcement results transparent and publicly available;
  8. Recognize that enforcement is essential but not sufficient; compliance must be promoted through assistance programs, incentives and penalties, and clear requirements.

EPA’s compliance and enforcement programs

EPA, in partnership with state, local, tribal governments and other agencies works to assure compliance with environmental laws and regulations. This work includes compliance monitoring activities, including inspections. EPA and its partners also have developed numerous resources to assist the regulated community with compliance. These include training, educational material and on-line resource centers.

When warranted, EPA will take civil or criminal enforcement action against violators of environmental laws and regulations. Results related to compliance and enforcement are available on EPA’s website.

Next generation compliance

Modern approaches to compliance can take advantage of new tools and technologies. For example, the rules themselves can be designed for easy implementation and enforcement in light of advanced emission monitoring and detection technologies. Similarly, electronic reporting can streamline information management and improve accuracy and transparency. Expanding this transparency to the public sector can support broader public participation. Additionally, data can be analyzed to develop innovative strategies for enforcement. More information is available on the Next Generation Compliance webpage.