Compliance - EPA Seeks Comments on New Electronic Compliance Database

12/10/2002

In our October 22nd and November 6th client alerts, we discussed the new compliance history regulations recently promulgated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which the TCEQ considers in making permitting and enforcement decisions.  In conjunction with that program, TCEQ has established an on-line data base of compliance history ratings.  On November 20, 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new database – the Enforcement & Compliance History Online (“ECHO”) database – that provides similar types of information, which EPA characterizes as one stop shopping for the public to retrieve permit and compliance information for regulated facilities.

Although ECHO will not be used in making substantive decisions regarding state or federal permits and will not be used to rate facilities, it will provide a way for the public to access information regarding state and federal permits and compliance history for approximately 800,000 facilities nationwide.  Information available in the ECHO database consists of facility-specific information reported pursuant to the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and includes:  permit information, including permit numbers and access to detailed reporting information; inspection dates and enforcement information; detailed compliance information listed by quarter; and formal enforcement measures by state and federal agencies.  This information currently is available to the public through environmental databases maintained by EPA and through Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIA), but ECHO provides the public with an easy way to access environmental permit information for all media in one place.

EPA is seeking comments to the ECHO database over a 60 day period, that started on November 20.  Errors in data returned by ECHO can be reported on the report itself, by clicking the “Report Data Error” button.  During the comment period, EPA is seeking comments regarding the overall accuracy of the data, the usability of the site, and suggestions for modifying the research tool.  All comments must be submitted to EPA no later than January 21, 2003.  You can review the ECHO database at http://www.epa.gov/echo.

Please contact an environmental attorney at Haynes and Boone if you have questions or would like assistance in commenting to EPA.

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