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Using the Case Summary Field for FY 2010 Concluded Cases (09.02.2010)

To: Regional Enforcement Coordinators and Regional Enforcement Division Directors

cc:  Regional ICIS Coordinators

 

 

In our continuing effort to support the Administrator's call for greater public transparency regarding the Agency's activities as well as our  own Assistant’s Administrator’s national goal to “Improve Transparency,” we have reviewed the public case summary information that will appear in ECHO for 2010 concluded federal enforcement actions.  This information is pulled directly from the public case summary field in ICIS.  Thus, OC has been reviewing public case summary information in ICIS (i.e., the Case Summary field on the Basic Information screen) to determine what steps, if any, can be taken to improve this information. 

 

As you may recall, last FY OECA instructed regions to review and remove all enforcement sensitive information from the ICIS public case summary field for enforcement cases that concluded in FY 2009.  OC recently conducted a review of case summaries in ICIS for cases concluded in FY 2010.  We are pleased to report that, based on our limited review of a random selection of cases from all regions, there has been notable improvement in the case summaries.  Our review revealed comparatively few instances (out of more than 1000 case summaries reviewed) where potentially case sensitive information was included in the summary.   We believe this reflects greater attention being paid to the summaries by the regions.  We thank you for your efforts here.  Nevertheless, our review revealed that more work on improving the summaries will provide significant benefits in terms of transparency and usefulness to the public. 

 

We strongly recommend that you review the case summaries in the ICIS report attached and edit/improve the information in ICIS based on the following suggestions and the attached examples. The attached pdf file contains all cases concluded in FY 2010 that were entered into ICIS as of August 18, 2010 (the date the report was run).  The top priority for this review is the removal of any enforcement sensitive information.  Please confirm via email response to Joe Schive by October 8, 2010 that all enforcement sensitive information has been removed.

 

As to the problematic case summaries with enforcement sensitive data that we identified through our review of the FY 2010 concluded cases, we will contact the individual regions involved and notify them of the problem we uncovered.

 

Several areas in which improvements to case summaries can be made include:

 

Top Priority

  • ·          Enforcement sensitive information - Entries should never include enforcement sensitive information, such as: case strategies, preliminary penalty and injunctive relief calculations or bottom-line settlement amounts.  In addition, the summaries should not include information on litigation risks, negotiation strategy, internal calculations of injunctive relief or penalty mitigation options that could impact negotiations in future enforcement actions.

 

Secondary areas for review (if resources and time allow)

  • ·          Superfluous information - Exclude from the case summary information that does not increase the public's understanding of the case, e.g., internal considerations concerning the case that do not make clearer what the case was about or what we achieved through the case.
  • ·          Information is out of date.   Many case summaries in ICIS are written at the initiation of the enforcement action. But when the action is concluded, the public case summary field in ICIS is often not updated.  As a result, the information displayed in ECHO is no longer current. 
    • ·               Information is incomplete as it does not clearly tell the public in plain english why we brought the case, what the case was about, and what we achieved through the settlement or final order.

 

To assist in writing effective and complete case summaries, we are providing a few "model" case summaries for your consideration.  These summaries, drawn from EPA press releases, are the types of summaries that we would like to include in the ICIS public case summary field.  Recall that information in the ICIS case summary field goes directly into ECHO and is visible on the Annual Results maps on the OECA Web site. 

 

Our goal is to have case summaries that tell the public why we brought the case, what the case was about, and what we achieved through the case.  The regions should use this approach and format for FY 2010 case summaries if possible (while recognizing that at this point in the FY it may not be practical to go back and revise the case summaries for all FY 2010 concluded cases).   Beginning in FY 2011, the Regions should uniformly write ICIS case summaries based on the models provided.  Further guidance on this matter for FY 2011 will be forthcoming.  We are also exploring whether we need to make changes to ICIS to help the regions remember to update the case summary (often written at the time of initiation) when the case is being concluded.   We have begun to discuss this possible change with the OECA Regional Measures Review Board and will seek regional input on any proposed ICIS changes as they evolve

 

Again, we appreciate the efforts that the regions have made in improving ICIS case summaries and look forward to continuing to work with you in this area.   If you have any questions on this effort, please contact, Dan Palmer (564-5034) or Joe Schive (564-4156).

David A. Hindin, Deputy Director
Office of Compliance
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
voice 202-564-1300; fax 202-564-0027

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