As some of our clients know all too well, I am spending much time these days defending citizen suits. As federal and state agency budgets get slashed, we’re only going to see more such suits, unless a Tea Party-controlled Congress amends the relevant statutes to cut back on citizen suit provisions.
In a move that will facilitate citizen enforcement, EPA announced last week that it has yet again upgraded its Enforcement and Compliance History Online, or ECHO, data base. As Cynthia Giles, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement said:
EPA is committed to providing the public with easy to use tools that display facility compliance information and the actions EPA and the states are taking to address pollution problems in communities across the nation. EPA is proud to announce our latest effort under the President’s White House Regulatory Compliance Transparency Initiative and we will continue to take steps to make meaningful enforcement and compliance data available as part of an open, transparent government.
In other words, if we don’t have the resources to sue the polluters, we’ll at least try to make sure that NGOs do.
It’s difficult to be against increased transparency – and I’m not. I will note, though, that ECHO is not perfect. I frequently see mistakes when I review information about our clients. I certainly would advise clients to review ECHO periodically to ensure that they know what information EPA is providing to the public about their compliance status.