A number of comments have been received
as attached files and hard-copy submissions. The final public
comment docket for ECHO will combine these submissions with
comments received via the ECHO comment form and hotline.
Note: Most user comments have
been edited to remove references to specific people and facilities.
Comments representing an organization retain identifying information.
In addition, those comments that primarily asked a question
are not displayed. Please note that tips/complaints and reported
data errors are not included in this log.
"This comment is in reference to all media - "Quarters
in NC" is a poor indicator of actual compliance. It does not
matter if there was only one non-compliance item reported on a annual
report or 100; the public will see 4 quarters of non-compliance!
This obviously is not a good metric!"
"In general I believe the inspection dbase is incomplete and
- Regulated entity user
"I am a student from New Hampshire currently living in Iceland.
An environmental policy professor here suggested that I peruse this
site and comment during this pilot phase. I checked out the search
using my state, county, hometown, and zip code in a couple of combinations.
I am generally ignorant of what statutes govern companies operating
even around my hometown, and have never known a way of readily determining
whether those companies engaged in environmentally sound practices.
However, simply running a couple of searches helped to clarify the
site's usefulness for me as a private citizen:
I have not ever been afraid of any significant environmental violations
near my hometown, yet I found it comforting that the search results
indicated that facilities less than a mile from my house were without
significant violations in the last two years. Moreover, while I
have only rarely attended or participated in public meetings of
the Board of Aldermen in my hometown, I now feel that ECHO could
provide a good starting point for me to take a more active interest
in my town's environmental policies.
I am still not entirely sure why demographic information has been
included on this site. I will try to read further, however. Also,
I would be interested in finding out what other sources of this
sort are available to the public. Were it not for that professor,
I would not even have known to check this one."
- Unaffiliated user
"Three weeks ago, [xxx] submitted corrections for a series
of errors observed for [xxx]. ECHO incorrectly indicates that [xxx]
has been in violation of the Title V permit for the past five quarters
and has High Priority Violations flagged for 6 quarters. Today,
[xxx] received an e-mail stating that EPA cannot correct the data
because it is coming out of the state's system. Coincidentally [xxx]
personnel met yesterday to discuss air activities and the DEP has
no major issues with any activities currently going on at the plant.
I have been in contact with state personnel but I do not have any
answers yet. I sincerely hope that we don't end up with the EPA
pointing to the state and the state pointing back at the EPA while
these inappropriate violations languish in cyberspace for the world
- Regulated entity user
"KeySpan is the largest investor owned electric generator
in New York State, with over 6200 MW of generating capacity serving
New York City and Long Island. KeySpan is also one of the largest
natural gas distribution companies in the northeast, with facilities
in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island.
After review of the ECHO web site, KeySpan does not agree that the
web site currently provides meaningful and useful information concerning
site compliance and enforcement. Much of the compliance data presented
is questionable in its accuracy and completeness. Often non-compliances
are noted even though the matter was resolved or the issue is under
a consent order. There are often occurrences where multiple names
for the same facility has appeared. In this situation an error report
was filed but changes could only be made in the Facility Registry
System (FRS) and not the other systems. Many of these other systems
are administered by the state authority and are beyond the scope
of the error reporting function. A system with the design goals
of ECHO requires a robust and integrated system. The fact that the
various data systems do not seem to be up to date is evidence that
there is not full integration as yet.
The question of the value of the information must also be addressed.
Compliance with federal and state programs is complex and cannot
readily be distilled down to simple terms. This is evidenced by
the nearly twenty page long data dictionary required to define terms
and programs. The web site presents information that may be beyond
the ability of the stakeholder to use in a meaningful way. The presentation
is often not consistent from one facility to the next, making comparisons
difficult. There is also no consistency regarding terms like 'significant'
when addressing non-compliances, again making it difficult to make
informed judgements about regulatory compliance.
Finally, KeySpan, being a Brooklyn, New York based company, is well
aware of the current security climate and has gone to great lengths
to increase security at our facilities. It is troublesome that the
ECHO web site provides instant access to latitude, longitude and
demographic data regarding the facility and surrounding communities.
The map feature provides detailed information on the location of
the facility and its proximity to local street and highways and
other types of facilities. This appears contrary and inconsistent
with efforts to preserve homeland security. Access to sensitive
information should be revisited and EPA should be consistent with
other federal agencies on what information is deemed sensitive for
the purposes of protecting homeland security."
- Regulated entity user
"Comment: Find a different way other than % to indicate amount
by which a violation exceeds permit limits for parameters which
have an underlying non-normal statistical distribution. This includes
pH, bacteria (limit is geometric mean), and toxicity. A % exceedance
is meaningless for such parameters (unless you can figure out how
to show the calculation)."
- Regulated entity user
"This is a very usefull teaching tool. The data presented
makes "real" the issues related to production and the
Thanks very much for letting us use it!"
- Academic user
"The Rohm and Haas Company would like to provide the following
comments on the EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History Online
(ECHO) database. Rohm and Haas also adopts and incorporates the
comments submitted by The American Chemistry Council on this matter.
ACC has expressed our general concerns in their comment letter dated
March 28, 2003 and in an effort not to be duplicative, we are providing
additional comments based on the specific information requested
by EPA in the Federal Register Notice.
(1) Does the site provide meaningful and useful information about
the compliance and enforcement program?
We support the public availability of compliance and enforcement
data; however, this information must be accurate and easily understood.
We find that review of our own data in many cases was substantially
confusing in that in it cannot be traced to specific occurrences
and does not correspond to information possessed by the facility.
Neither the public nor the facility has means to verify the accuracy
of these entries and facilities may suffer damage to reputation
for either correct or incorrect data that cannot be verified. Additionally,
the entry of the same enforcement action on duplicative tables may
convey the incorrect impression that the facility received multiple,
similar, enforcement actions. This approach to data presentation
is potentially misleading and damaging to facility reputation.
Overall, the timing of postings and the "anchor dates"
for postings and actions is worrisome. The approach taken seems
to convey that the facility is in continual violation from the date
of a violation through the actual date of enforcement by the agency
whether this is factual or not; the facility is thus publicly held
accountable for the agency's administrative enforcement delays.
In our case, these delays have amounted to years to issue Title
V permits or NPDES permits, for example. Greater detail is needed
to more fully explain the data. We would like to suggest that the
facility be provided a field to attach comments. Also that only
the facility/company can provide comments on the data or request
correction of the data.
Additionally, since data is updated monthly and it is obvious to
us that there are many errors with our data, we will have to routinely
review our data in the ECHO database to ensure the data is accurate
and errors are corrected. We ask that EPA consider that this could
be a large effort for our facilities when data is confusing or can
not be traced. Therefore, we suggest semiannual updates would be
sufficiently current and less resource intensive for both the Agency
and the facilities.
(2) Is the site easy to navigate?
In general yes but in some cases, our facilities were unable to
get their facility information even by simple zip code searches.
It is our conclusion that the database is inconsistent.
(3) Does the help text adequately explain the data?
The acronyms used were misleading and confusing for most facilities.
The presentation of the data was also difficult for many facilities
due to multiple listings or outdated information. The source of
the data should also be identified, so that a facility can correct
any misinformation in all relevant databases. It would also be helpful
if a glossary of terms was provided.
(4) What additional features, content, and/or modifications would
improve the site?
We are not providing any additional suggestions for improvement.
We feel the ACC comment letter makes sufficient recommendations
for improvement. Our compliance history is extremely important to
us and we encourage EPA to make modifications that would help us
to be more active in correcting misinformation and preserving our
reputation where appropriate.
(5) For members of the regulated community:
A. Were your facility reports accurate?
We have found many instances where our information was inaccurate,
misleading or simply wrong. From review of the data for our facilities,
we have found numerous examples of the following errors:
· Wrong SIC codes and general information about our facilities
such as contact names, phone numbers, and mailing addresses. Information
for closed facilities still appears in the database. There is no
indication that the facility no longer exists.
· Several distinct but contiguous facilities consolidated
as if they were a single facility.
· Resolved non compliances were not corrected in the database.
· NOVs or non compliances that we have successfully challenged
were not removed from the database.
· Non compliances or violations were indicated where we had
· The timeframes of a non compliance or violation were wrong
(i.e., the database has that one of our facilities is out of compliance
for 8 quarters when it was 2 quarters.)
· There are occasions when we know we had permit exceedances
but none were present in the database.
· Numerous regulatory inspections that were conducted at
our facilities but are not listed in the database. (In one particular
case, the database shows the last air inspection for one of our
facilities was in 1995. However, we are routinely inspected annually.)
· The database shows numerous late DMRs when we have confirmed
that they were not submitted late.
· Permit limits for some parameters are shown when none exist
in our permits.
· Wrong permit, RCRA, or ID numbers (In one case, the database
lists a RCRA ID number for one of our facilities that never existed
[in our name- What does this mean? Lists us under a prior site owners
· Facilities with the wrong RCRA classification (i.e., the
facility is listed as a SQG when they area CESQG).
· Closed permits were never recorded and appear to still
be active (i.e., Part B permits, BIF permits).
· Enforcement actions and penalties posted to the wrong dates
(in some cases, not even the same year of the violation).
· Facilities deemed High Priority Violators where it is not
the case (In one case we have a letter from our state that this
did not occur).
· We have found instances of duplicative information such
as an NOV and subsequent enforcement action shown as separate non
In general, it is our impression that the data for "simpler"
facilities (those facilities without NPDES or air permits) were
mostly accurate. Data for complex facilities (facilities with multiple
permits) were riddled with errors.
B. If you did need to submit an online error report, was the error
reporting process easy to use?
In general yes it is easy to submit the corrections. Our concern
is with the timeliness in getting the corrections posted to the
database. We would like to have the ability to place comments directly
into the database and to have the ability to track corrections to
ensure they are made in a timely fashion.
Rohm and Haas appreciates this opportunity to comment and we hope
that this information will help to make the ECHO database a more
accurate database and more reflective of our true compliance history."
- Regulated entity user
"Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the ECHO pilot
program. In general, we support the online availability of accurate
and informative environmental data. Unfortunately, we have found
incorrect data reported online for each one of the facilities we
operate. The online reporting of inaccurate data without verification
and without supporting information seems to unfairly portray participating
facilities negatively even though many facilities are actively complying
with complex environmental regulations. In our review of the ECHO
user comments, we have found that the general public believes that
this site provides good information that will allow residents within
their communities and the consumer to make better-educated decisions
regarding where they want to live and which companies to support.
In light of the fact that the unaffiliated user' is basing
quality of life decisions on information contained within the ECHO
database and to prevent the serious consequences of distributing
incorrect information, we encourage the U.S. EPA to confirm the
validity of the data with facility owners/operators by setting an
appropriate offline review period before posting this information
on the web.
Specifically we would like to offer the following recommendations
to improve the utility and accuracy of the ECHO reports: a) to identify
violations - a status indicator of compliance/non-compliance is
preferable to reporting violations in terms of highest percentages,
and b) to clarify the severity of a permit violation by providing
supporting data, when available, which identifies both frequency
and duration of the violation. An example of when the additional
supporting data would provide a clearer picture of a facility's
compliance history would involve a reportable violation resulting
from a data spike of a particular constituent for a few minutes
or seconds even though a facility may be in compliance for rest
of the month or quarter.
Information required by implementing the above recommendation may
be provided in the offline response period from each of the facility
owners/operators for each reportable violation or reported non-compliance."
- Regulated entity user
"Flint Hills Resources, LP (FHR) is pleased to submit the
following comments and recommendations pertaining to EPA's Enforcement
and Compliance History Online (ECHO) Web Site. FHR owns and operates
two petroleum refineries in Corpus Christi, Texas, one refinery
in Pine Bend, Minnesota, and two other petroleum product terminals
that are included within the ECHO reporting database.
FHR supports the public reporting of environmental performance information.
Since March 2000, FHR's Pine Bend Refinery, in conjunction with
the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, has voluntarily
maintained a web site providing clear, validated environmental data
to the public (see http://www.fhrpinebend.com). Although EPA is
similarly attempting to provide environmental data directly to the
public, FHR finds the posted data to be unreliable and difficult
to correct. The following sections provide more detailed comments
and some recommended improvements.
ECHO Reports Are Unreliable
FHR spent considerable time reviewing the information displayed
on the ECHO web site for FHR's four owned and operated facilities.
During this review, FHR discovered over 140 errors ranging from
simple typographical errors to inaccurate information related to
compliance status and enforcement actions, as follows:
Permits and Facility Identifiers - Several incorrect facility names
and addresses were found. Also, permits or RCRA generator numbers
for non-FHR facilities were incorrectly assigned to FHR.
Inspection History Historical state or county environmental
inspections are not always listed.
Compliance Data and Status - Compliance information, which is perhaps
the most important data for facility operators, is confusing and
misleading. Some facilities are shown to have erroneous areas of
significant non-compliance, which are unknown to facility personnel.
In addition, when a facility enters a consent agreement to resolve
a compliance concern, the facility's status remains non-compliant,
even if the facility is complying with an agency compliance agreement.
Lastly, the abbreviations used to describe compliance status are
difficult to comprehend.
Enforcement Information - In some cases, joint-enforcement actions
by both EPA and state authorities are doubled accounted. Also, total
penalties, paid by a corporation for an enforcement action involving
more than one facility, are displayed on each facility report. Displaying
the information in this manner may cause citizens to infer that
the same penalty was paid multiple times.
Correction Process Needs Improvement
Since November 2002, FHR has filed over 140 on-line ECHO error reports.
Although many errors have been resolved, several errors remain uncorrected.
In addition, some data cannot be corrected using the on-line error
reporting. Some error reports forwarded by EPA to state agencies
for correction have not been acted upon in over 3 months. EPA should
take full ownership to data quality and ensure that corrections
are made in a timely manner.
FHR also suggests that EPA consider providing facilities with an
opportunity to validate compliance and enforcement data, prior to
posting on the ECHO web site. EPA currently provides a similar validation
process for Toxic Chemical Release Inventory (TRI) data, whereby
facilities are provided a limited timeframe to review and submit
corrections, prior to public release.
ECHO Report Should Be Simplified
As previously stated, some of the information within the Compliance
Status section of the ECHO facility report is unclear. FHR believes
that the public is most interested in whether a facility is operating
in compliance, and if not, is the facility on an agency-approved
schedule for correction. The ECHO information would be more meaningful,
if EPA simplified the Two Year Air Compliance Status by Quarter
abbreviations to only: C (compliance), V (violation), and S (compliance
schedule). All other abbreviations and extensions provide an opportunity
for higher complexity and an opportunity for misunderstanding."
- Regulated entity user
"...I also request the web site be removed from public view
until KNOWN errors, such as this one, can be correct. Please do
not close this request until my concerns are addressed. Having inaccurate
negative information about my operation being published by EPA is
of high concern to me."
- Regulated entity user
"There appears to be a lot of abbreviations and acronyms used
on the forms. This is not very user friendly to the general public.
I am employed in the environmental field and looked up one of my
own facilities. I was unable to understand what was being meant
or said in some of the information provided. In other words, "What
does it mean to me?" I recommend having a review of the format
and information provided conducted by random John Q. Public type
of individuals, not just those familiar with environmental jargon
- State government user
"The method of listing violations and current significant
violations is misleading. There is no explanation regarding current
NOVs that are being contested. The term significant is also misleading
and would cause an uniformed person to reach the wrong conclusions.
Our particular situation involves isolated minor violations that
did not represent any hazard to the public. These are currently
being contested. Until an issue is resolved it should not be listed
as a violation."
- Regulated entity user
"Being from the regulated community, we see having accurate
compliance information available to the public as positive. The
comments we are submitting regarding ECHO revolve around the measurement
of the "number of quarters in non-compliance". The dates
of inspections are shown, however someone looking at the Number
of quarters in noncompliance may be mislead.
For example, if an inspection is conducted at the beginning of a
quarter, January 2nd, and through correspondance is resolved by
the end of the quarter, March 31; that indicates only 1 quarter
in noncompliance. However the same inspection could take place on
the last day of the quarter and after the same amount of days get
resolved at the beginning of the 3 quarter, indicating 3 quarters
in noncompliance. Someone from the public would interpret one being
much worse than the other. Just supplying the date of the inspection
and the back in compliance date should be adequate without indicating
the number of quarters.
Also there is no distinction made between someone having a certain
number of quarters in noncompliance for a minor issue, such as a
missing valve tag, as opposed to a major issue. It may not be feasible
to list actual violations, but it may be a more even measurement
to report only those violations which were referred to enforcement
or resulted in fines.
There is an enormous amount of data to report and it should be as
simple to understand as possible. Although reporting numbers of
quarters in noncompliance would seem to measure companies evenly,
it may actually cause confusion as to the real compliance history
of a company."
- Regulated entity user
"I am responding to your request for comments of the, Enforcement
and Compliance History Online, or "ECHO" database on behalf
of the City of Chicago, Department of Environment. DOE has looked
at your database, and is concerned that it may not provide information
on all state funded inspections. The Chicago DOE works under a delegation
agreement with the state of Illinois. That agreement has certain
reporting requirements, and all of our permitted facility inspections
with regards to air emitters are reported to the Illinois EPA.
The database supposedly lists all of the, "hazardous waste-related
facilities" in a state, listed by several categories. All USEPA,
state, and local inspections of these sites are supposedly listed,
inferring by the listing that all institutionalized sources of pollution
The maximum number of businesses that the site will allow someone
to bring up at once is 500. Since Chicago has, according to the
site, 1,038 listings, we therefore have to break the listing down
into segments. We recommend that this be changed so that users can
view up to 2,000 sites. The next largest grouping is by Zip Code.
To compare actual site information with the ECHO database, we have
looked at a couple of sites that we are very familiar with, and
called up one Zip Code, to examine the information in depth. I have
the following comments to offer as examples: (ALL LOCATIONS ARE
IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS) [xxx]
4. Not only are the local inspections not included in the ECHO
database, but as far as we can determine, in most cases, state inspections
are not included either, since we have worked in conjunction with
the Illinois EPA on all of these three sites, and their inspections
are not included either.
Conclusion: While the ECHO database seems to include USEPA information
as well as some state information, it lacks most local information,
even if that information has been reported to the state. Therefore,
since the majority of the inspections are done on a local level,
we think the database lacks relevant inspection information. This
limits its usefulness for certain tasks, one example of which would
be assessing environmental justice issues."
- Local government user
"TFollowing are the comments of Xcel Energy regarding the
U.S Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Notice of Availability
of Enforcement and Compliance History Online Web Site and Request
For Comments (67 Fed. Reg., 70079, Nov. 20, 2002).
Xcel Energy is an electricity and natural gas utility formed by
the merger of Northern States Power Company (Minneapolis, MN) and
New Century Energies (Denver, CO). Xcel Energy's regulated operations
generate approximately 15,000 megawatts and serve 3 million electricity
customers in 12 Western and Midwestern states. As an electric and
gas utility, Xcel Energy has innumerable facilities regulated under
the CAA, CWA-NPDES, RCRA, SARA, and CERCLA. As such, we have a significant
interest in the accuracy of the data presented in EPA's Enforcement
and Compliance History Online Database. Inaccurate information and
misinterpretation of the data will significantly detract from the
usefulness of this tool.
It is very difficult to get a complete record of facility information
from the database. If a search is conducted on "All Media",
you would assume that you would get all of the CAA, CWA, EPCRA,
and RCRA information associated with the facility, however this
is not necessarily the case. Often, a search may need to be conducted
independently on each media to ensure that all available information
is extracted from the database for a specific facility.
The search function of the ECHO database is somewhat cumbersome.
In order to find all of the facilities owned and operated by our
company, the search had to be conducted on multiple variations of
the company name to find all applicable entries. Each search would
yield a different listing of facilities. Some never showed up at
all, until the search was performed using the facility's RCRA ID
number. It would be advantageous for EPA to develop a standard method
for naming facilities or link facilities to a common identifier
such as a Dun & Bradstreet number of the parent company to facilitate
the search function. We identified several hundred of our company's
facilities in the database, but have no way of knowing whether we've
found all of them.
We have identified several facilities that have CAA permits, but
for unknown reasons, do not show up in the ECHO database.
The "Facility Characteristics" contain inconsistent latitude
and longitude coordinates. EPA may want to consider verifying and
standardizing this data.
The "Two Year Compliance Status by Quarter" table design
could be misleading to the general public. Problems could be with
the state SIP and not the individual facility. These problems could
mislead the public into thinking the facility is in violation when
it is actually in compliance.
ECHO lists every facility that has ever been assigned an EPA hazardous
waste generator ID number. As a result, facilities no longer existing,
as well as remediation sites that have been closed still show up
on the list. In many cases, inactivation requests were submitted
to the EPA for these sites. It is recommended that EPA either eliminate
inactivated sites from the ECHO database, or provide an "inactive"
indicator for sites that no longer exist or are closed.
Several inaccuracies were noted in the data including; erroneous
indications of late reports, erroneous indications of noncompliance,
and erroneous indications of compliance."
- Regulated entity user
"This site is very helpful for citizens trying to help achieve
enforcement of environmental laws. Please make it permanent!"
- Public interest group user
"I think the ECHO concept is excellent and have used it once
before to review a particular generator. This time I had difficulty
getting any search pages to work. I think it should be a permament
feature as it allows easy access (usually) to important compliance
information and assists generators of hazardous waste to choose
- Commercial user
I'm not sure what the source codes referred to. It is hard to tell
if permit information is correct when actual permit numbers are
not used on the site.
- Regulated entity user