Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan speaks to reporters at the White House in June about efforts to provide clean drinking water across the United States. File Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced it will vastly increase enforcement of the nation's environmental regulations through unannounced inspections at non-compliant facilities as part of a larger plan to improve air and water quality.
The plan is also intended to respond directly to "concerns of communities historically and disproportionately impacted by pollution."
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, who was confirmed to the position in March, said the inspections are aimed at protecting public health, informed by a tour he took of communities.
"In every community I visited ... the message was clear: Residents have suffered far too long, and local, state and federal agencies have to do better," Regan said a press release Wednesday. "The pollution concerns have been impacting these communities for decades. Our actions will begin to help not only the communities I visited on this tour, but also others across the country who have suffered from environmental injustices."
In a call with reporters Tuesday, Regan said "folks have been waiting long enough" for the government to take stronger action on environmental issues.
Regan traveled to Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas to tour communities that have had significant health issues tied to clean air and clean water.
On Monday, Jackson, Miss.'s water distribution system and several water main breaks forced four public schools to go virtual and others to hold classes at other schools Monday.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Regan said that during his tour he "heard countless stories of environmental injustices -- from people sickened by the air they breathe to kids missing school because the water isn't safe."
The EPA said its new "Pollution Accountability Team" will provide strong environmental compliance and monitoring in the South. The plans calls for the combination of high-tech air pollution monitoring with inspectors on the ground to address pollution and enhance enforcement.