Agreement Supports Homeland Security, Environmental Enforcement

EPA and the U.S. Customs Service signed a broad memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will further EPA's ability to monitor and enforce compliance with federal environmental laws and regulations pertaining to chemical substances, pesticides, hazardous waste and ozone-depleting chemicals, and will enhance homeland security efforts by increasing communication between the two agencies.

"This agreement between EPA and the Customs Service is another example of two federal agencies working together to advance homeland security, and ensure the protection of both human health and the environment within the borders of the United States and globally," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "With this memorandum of understanding, our agencies will be better positioned to respond promptly and effectively to potential environmental risks that could also serve to jeopardize the security of our nation."

Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner added that since Sept. 11, 2001, the customs department has worked to eliminate the roadblocks that have hampered past federal law enforcement efforts." The agreement "represents yet another important step towards achieving the free flow of information that will enhance homeland security," he said.

Under the MOU, Customs will provide EPA access in the future to its confidential Automated Commercial System (ACS), which includes information relating to the names and addresses of importers, consignees, shippers, manufacturers, quantity and value of the imported merchandise and wastes, as well as corresponding Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) codes. This access to imformation will enable EPA to identify classification data for all merchandise imported into the United States. Customs also will provide EPA with specific information related to, among others, chemical substances, pesticides, hazardous waste and ozone-depleting chemicals on a routine basis, as well as on an as-needed and emergency basis, and will allow EPA to share information with federal, state, foreign and local partners as permitted by law, under strict confidentiality requirements.

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