Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

EPA Moves to Formalize Revised Strategies

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 24, 2017

Scott Pruitt 2.jpgEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has, by word and individual action, been moving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) away from President Obama’s aggressive agenda and toward President Trump’s preference for reduced activity. These have included a less-regulatory “Back-to-Basics Agenda,” which I described here. Now the agency is proposing to formalize these priorities in its strategic plan for the next four fiscal years, 2018-2022.

Although the two documents largely represent high-level rhetoric, at least one striking contrast jumps out: whereas the Obama-era 2014-2018 Strategic Plan prioritizes “Addressing Climate Change and Improving Air Quality” as Goal #1 of the five enumerated goals, the Trump-era draft does not mention the phrases “climate change” or “greenhouse gas” even once. The issue has simply disappeared.

What Were EPA’s 2014-2018 Strategic Priorities

EPA’s present Strategic Plan presents 80 pages of discussion, built around the following 5 strategic goals:

  • Goal 1: Addressing Climate Change and Improving Air Quality

  • Goal 2: Protecting America’s Waters

  • Goal 3: Cleaning Up Communities and Advancing Sustainable Development

  • Goal 4: Ensuring the Safety of Chemicals and Preventing Pollution

  • Goal 5: Protecting Human Health and the Environment by Enforcing Laws and Assuring Compliance

The text provides explanation of issues, programmatic approaches, and a number of specific targets for action. I’m not reproducing those details here.

What is EPA Proposing For 2018-2022?

The new draft presents 38 pages of discussion, built around 3 strategic goals, each with multiple Objectives supported by Strategic Measures (of results) and Strategies for Achieving the Objectives, with explicit recognition of External Factors and Emerging Issues that will affect EPA’s pursuit of its objectives.

  • Goal 1 – Core Mission: Deliver real results to provide Americans with clean air, land, and water.

EPA has established priorities for advancing progress over the next four years in each of its core mission areas—land, air, water—as well as chemicals. These focus primarily on continuing implementation of basic environmental and public health standards, in cooperation with other agencies and actors. They are also infused with the new Administration’s focus on facilitating economic activities. Objectives under this Goal are:

  • Objective 1.1 - Improve Air Quality: Work with states to accurately measure air quality and ensure that more Americans are living and working in areas that meet high air quality standards.

  • Objective 1.2 - Provide for Clean and Safe Water: Ensure waters are clean through improved water infrastructure and, in partnership with states and tribes, sustainably manage programs to support drinking water, aquatic ecosystems, and recreational, economic, and subsistence activities.

  • Objective 1.3 - Revitalize Land and Prevent Contamination: Provide better leadership and management to properly clean up contaminated sites to revitalize and return the land back to communities.

  • Objective 1.4 - Ensure Safety of Chemicals in the Marketplace: Effectively implement the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, to ensure new and existing chemicals and pesticides are reviewed for their potential risks to human health and the environment.

  • Goal 2 – Cooperative Federalism: Rebalance the power between Washington and the states to create tangible environmental results for the American people.

This Goal reflects the idea that environmental protection is a shared responsibility between the states, tribes, and federal government – which is embedded in most U.S. environmental laws. As a statement of that balance, EPA assert that “states have assumed more than 96 percent of the delegable authorities under federal law.” Objective under this Goal are:

  • Objective 2.1 - Enhance Shared Accountability: Improve environmental protection through joint governance and compliance assistance among state, tribal, local, and federal partners.

  • Objective 2.2 - Increase Transparency and Public Participation: Listen to and collaborate with impacted stakeholders and provide effective platforms for public participation and meaningful engagement.

  • Goal 3 – Rule of Law and Process: Administer the law, as Congress intended, to refocus the Agency on its statutory obligations under the law.

This Goal outlines actions to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. It also responds to the new Administration’s assertion that the Obama Administration – including, notably, the Obama-era EPA – exceeded its legal authority in pursuit of goals with which the new government disagrees. Objective under this Goal are:

  • Objective 3.1 - Compliance with the Law: Enforce environmental laws to correct noncompliance and promote cleanup of contaminated sites.

  • Objective 3.2 - Create Consistency and Certainty: Outline exactly what is expected of the regulated community to ensure good stewardship and positive environmental outcomes.

  • Objective 3.3 - Prioritize Robust Science: Refocus the EPA’s robust research and scientific analysis to inform policy making.

  • Objective 3.4 - Streamline and Modernize: Issue permits more quickly and modernize our permitting and reporting systems.

  • Objective 3.5 - Improve Efficiency and Effectiveness: Provide proper leadership and internal operations management to ensure that the Agency is fulfilling its mission.

What are EPA’s Immediate Proposed Goals For Fiscal Year 2018-2019?

As short-term goals for fiscal year 2018-2019, EPA is proposing to assign highest priority to progress on the following:

  • Reduce the number of non-attainment areas.

  • Increase the percentage of water infrastructure projects funded through EPA grants, loans, or public-private partnerships that achieve or maintain compliance.

  • Make additional brownfields sites ready for anticipated use (RAU) and additional Superfund sites RAU site-wide.

  • Complete:

  1. EPA-initiated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluations for existing chemicals.

  2. TSCA risk management actions for existing chemicals.

  3. TSCA pre-manufacture notice final determinations in accordance with the timelines set forth in the statute.

  • Increase the amount of non-EPA resources leveraged by projects receiving EPA infrastructure investments.

  • Accelerate permitting-related decisions.

What’s Next?

EPA published a request in the October 5 Federal Register, for comments on this draft by October 33, 2017. Once this period has passed, EPA will proceed to finalize its

Where Do I Go For More Information?

Specialty Technical Publishers (STP) provides a variety of single-law and multi-law services, intended to facilitate clients’ understanding of and compliance with requirements. These include:

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About the Author

Jon Elliott is President of Touchstone Environmental and has been a major contributor to STP’s product range for over 25 years. He was involved in developing 13 existing products, including Environmental Compliance: A Simplified National Guide and The Complete Guide to Environmental Law.

Mr. Elliott has a diverse educational background. In addition to his Juris Doctor (University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1981), he holds a Master of Public Policy (Goldman School of Public Policy [GSPP], UC Berkeley, 1980), and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Princeton University, 1977).

Mr. Elliott is active in professional and community organizations. In addition, he is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of the GSPP Alumni Association, and past member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California's Environmental Law Section (including past chair of its Legislative Committee).

You may contact Mr. Elliott directly at:

photo credit: Gage Skidmore Scott Pruitt via photopin (license)

Tags: Health & Safety, Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA