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Has Pruitt Tapped the Brakes on Clean Air Act Section 114 Requests?

Aug 11, 2017

Next to unannounced agency inspections, few things strike fear in an Environmental Manager’s heart like a Clean Air Act Section 114 request.  Under Section 114, EPA can compel any person who owns or operates any emission source to provide “assistance” to EPA in achieving its goals under the Clean Air Act.  In most cases this means assisting EPA in determining whether the recipient of the 114 request itself is in violation of the Act, which many on the receiving end of the request have described as EPA “fishing expeditions.”

In practical terms, Section 114 requests result in untold hours of environmental staff time scrambling to respond in good faith to EPA’s overwhelming demands.  Given the potential liabilities associated with such requests, most facilities spend additional resources hiring legal counsel and consultants to assist with a response strategy.

As Director Pruitt continues to shorten the reins of EPA’s regional offices and centralize decision-making in the agency’s self-described efforts to reduce burdens on businesses, all EPA region requests for information provided for under most environmental statutes, including CAA Section 114 requests, must now be reviewed and approved by EPA Headquarters.  As news of this policy was first reported by Politico in its daily energy and environment roundup on July 17, EPA expressed to the journal that it “is working to…eliminate overly broad and unduly burdensome requests for information.  These changes will enable the agency to efficiently and consistently gather the information it needs to assure compliance with environmental laws.” 

Historically, EPA regional offices have had largely unfettered enforcement autonomy and relied heavily on Section 114 requests as a discovery tool.  EPA’s new information request aggregation policy may just very well reduce the number and complexity of these requests.

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