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USEPA Pilot Inspection Policy Prioritizes Prompt Return to Compliance

December 3, 2018

New national directive tracks AGC contractor recommendations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is piloting a new inspection policy to increase compliance by introducing new procedures for opening and closing conferences and a 60-day goal for completing inspection reports. The interim policy on “Inspection Report Timeliness and Standardization” addresses several long-standing concerns AGC and its members have shared with EPA and has the potential to improve the process and overall industry compliance.
 

AGC has recommended to the agency that inspectors share real-time feedback with companies so they can promptly correct potential violations---creating a “teachable moment” that enables a company to avoid perpetuating the deficiency.  Current inspection procedures do not facilitate the swift correction of any deficiencies, because the first a company may learn of a violation is several months after an inspection takes place or even after a construction project has closed out. This delay compounds any environmental harm that may have occurred as well as penalties, which may be assessed on a per day and per violation basis.  The interim policy addresses these concerns through new procedures during the closing conference and the new 60-day goal to complete the inspection report.

Specifically, the interim policy directs the lead inspector to perform the following tasks during a closing conference, as included in this excerpt (Note: The interim policy includes additional steps during the closing conference.) ---

  • “… discuss potential deficiencies, areas of concern, and observations made during the inspection;
  • inform the facility that it is EPA’s intent, after further review at the office, to provide subsequent written correspondence describing any potential deficiencies or areas of concern identified during the inspection review process and that EPA reserves the right to bring an enforcement action;
  • discuss the opportunity for the facility to fix and document any actions that it took to correct potential deficiencies or areas of concern (but … no assurances should be provided by the inspector that such a “fix” will ensure that the Agency will not bring an enforcement action);
  • suggest the facility either amend practices during the course of the inspection or if not possible, suggest the facility send the inspector a certified letter from the appropriate corporate official describing any efforts to correct potential deficiencies or areas of concern, with documentation and/or a picture where applicable;
  • document in the field notes, inspection report, or in the record, as appropriate, any actions that the facility took to correct potential deficiencies or areas of concern, that occurred either on-site or after the inspection… .” 
    (Interim Policy, pp 4-5)

The interim policy also states that identification of potential deficiencies noted during the closing conference is not a final determination of compliance.  A company will still need to wait to receive a final inspection report.  Furthermore, fixing a deficiency does not preclude agency enforcement action.

EPA’s pilot of the interim policy will close by the end of this year after which the agency will evaluate the results and incorporate any adjustments into a final policy.  The interim policy will remain in effect until EPA issues a final policy.

AGC has been focused on improving compliance and the inspection process during 2018, in particular, with the support of EPA's Smart Sectors program liaisons.  For more information contact Leah Pilconis at pilconisl@agc.org or Melinda Tomaino at tomainom@agc.org.

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