BMW Challenges Compliance Listings

The BMW Manufacturing Corporation has submitted a petition to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) compliance data for the company's Spartanburg, South Carolina plant. Currently, EPA lists the BMW facility as being in Significant Non-Compliance (SNC) with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The information is listed online in EPA's Enforcement Compliance History Online (ECHO) database and Sector Facility Indexing Project (SFIP) database. BMW asserts that the SNC listing is incorrect and challenges the data's accuracy, integrity, utility and reproducibility. The company claims that the listings are based on alleged violation of an EPA guidance memorandum that is now being judicially reviewed by the D.C. Circuit Court. The following points are the thrust of their argument:
  • The accuracy of the information is being questioned because the company claims to have confirmed its compliance with the state environmental agency. However, while the state agencies play a key role in enforcing compliance with environmental regulations the federal EPA is the final decision for violations of federal environmental laws.
  • The company's integrity argument centers on an accusation that EPA is misusing the violation notices to force companies to accept the contested guidance memo and sign settlement agreement. This argument is no more than an unproven accusation and therefore cannot be seen as a credible complaint upon the data's integrity.
  • BMW also claims that inaccurate information undermines the utility of the entire databases since it makes it difficult to determine which facilities are in or out of compliance. This argument seems to miss the mark of challenging the utility of the specific data in question.
  • Finally, the company claims that since the federal compliance determination conflicts the opinion of the state agency, the data is not reproducible. Unfortunately, the company failed to realize that data quality standard of reproducibility only applies to influential scientific, financial and statistical information for which the compliance listing clearly fails to qualify.
EPA provided BMW with an interim response on May 9, in which the agency explained that a full response to the data quality challenge would require additional time. In the letter, EPA notes that it was is aware BMW recently signed a Consent Agreement with the State of South Carolina bringing the facility into compliance and establishing a compliance schedule. The agency informed BMW that the ECHO website would soon reflect this new information. EPA rejected BMW's challenge in an Aug. 27 response letter that explained the agency's position. EPA stated that while the facility was currently in compliance due to the recent Consent Agreement, the ECHO website accurately communicates the facility's compliance history, including the significant noncompliance violation of RCRA. The agency implied that the petition failed to meet the requirements for a data quality challenge noting that BMW's disagreement with EPA's decision or actions did not in itself demonstrate a problem with information quality. BMW has 90 days following the agency's response to file a request for reconsideration. As of yet BMW has not filed such a request.
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