EPA waives civil penalties for some violations caused by 2000 testing

EPA waives civil penalties for some violations caused by 2000 testing

Mission-critical systems at the Environmental Protection Agency are year 2000-ready, but the agency is focusing on drinking water, chemicals and waste to prove systems preparedness.

In conjunction with instructions from the Office of Management and Budget, EPA is conducting exercises to illustrate that operations will continue through the date change. The Clinton administration hopes such demonstrations will help reassure concerned citizens.

EPA systems were fixed earlier this year, and the agency is working on contingency plans.

The agency is also encouraging the organizations it regulates to be ready. Earlier this year, EPA issued its final Year 2000 Enforcement Policy, which is designed to encourage companies and facilities to test their computer equipment.

The document says EPA will waive 100 percent of the civil penalties that would apply and will recommend waiver of criminal prosecution for any environmental violation caused during specific systems tests designed to identify and eliminate problems as a result of the year 2000 date change.

The policy applies to test-related violations disclosed to EPA by Feb. 1, 2000. The penalty waiver and recommendation against criminal prosecution are subject to certain conditions.

Efforts to reinvent EPA have saved businesses and communities more than $2.4 billion while maintaining environmental protection.

'Environmental programs today are more flexible, more cost-effective and based on common sense,' said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. 'And, at the same time, the protection of public health and the environment is at its highest level.'

The agency calculated that most of the savings came from preventing problems by reducing the amount of solid waste, preventing air pollution, saving water and conserving energy.

EPA's annual report on its reinvention efforts, however, indicates that $807 million was saved by cutting unnecessary regulatory paperwork, streamlining regulatory processes and abolishing outdated provisions. The efforts saved organizations 26.9 million hours a year.

The report can be found at www.epa.gov/reinvent.

In addition, EPA recently named Richard Farrell as the agency's associate administrator for the Office of Reinvention. In that post, he will be responsible for using innovative environmental management approaches that improve efficiency and effectiveness while maintaining efforts to protect the environment.

EPA is working to put more information online.

With 40 million hits on its Web site every month, EPA intends to provide the public with better access to environmental information. The agency recently opened its online Center for Environmental Information and Statistics, which lets citizens get environmental profiles about their communities at tree2.epa.gov/ceis/ceis.nsf. EPA is also expanding the Toxic Release Inventory, which aims to increase reporting on emissions of persistent, bioaccumulative toxic chemicals by 25 percent.

EPA has released a new right-to-know pesticide brochure and Web site informing consumers and their families about practical steps to reduce exposure to pesticides used on food.

The information can help families reduce dietary exposure to pesticide residues and maintain a healthy diet. The Web site can be found at www.epa.gov/pesticides/food.

EPA has also created a Web site on renewable energy pollution, at www.epa.gov/solar, that provides information about the pollution prevention benefits of using solar, wind, biomass, hydrothermal and geothermal energy.

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