Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Trump Administration Proposes to “Modernize” Federal Environmental Impact Assessments by Narrowing Them

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 25, 2020

The federal Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has proposed to revise its regulations administering the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions, and incorporate this information into their decisions. Government-wide guidance is provided by the White House’s CEQ, established by NEPA and appointed by the President. CEQ issues formal regulations that agencies must follow, and guidance documents that provide additional advice.  CEQ also reviews agencies’ NEPA implementation programs, and publishes annual national Environmental Quality Reports.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, EHS, EPA, clean water, site auditing, greenhouse

Protecting Workers During Holiday Sales Events

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 26, 2019

As we approach the winter holidays, retailers everywhere are planning their biggest cycles of annual sales. One doesn’t have to be a grinch to notice that these events can introduce additional hazards for retail employees – and for others who may be shopping. It’s therefore a good time to review guidance for managing these hazards, which was promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2012. This guidance followed a national review after a highly-publicized incident during which a worker at a Long Island Walmart was trampled to death by a crowd mobbing the store’s Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving) sales event in 2008. OSHA determined that Walmart should have anticipated crowd-related hazards, and fined the company for a violation of the Employer’s General Duty Clause (I wrote about this here)

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Health & Safety, OSHA, Employee Rights, EHS, Workplace violence

President Trump Restricts Agencies’ Use of Guidelines

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 12, 2019

Since assuming office, President Trump and his administration have generally sought to reduce and repeal formal federal regulations, and to tighten appointed agency heads’ direct control over their agencies’ regulatory actions. These efforts have included executive orders (EO) from the President providing government-wide mandates and priorities (For example, I wrote about EO 13777, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs”, here). They have also included formal regulatory proceedings, mostly directed toward reducing or revoking requirements adopted during President Obama’s tenure (for example, I wrote about the latest changes to national vehicle emission standards here). Individual agencies have followed and reinforced these efforts (For example, I wrote about the Environmental Protection Agency “Back to Basics” initiative here).

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Tags: Business & Legal, Audit Standards, Environmental, EHS

OSHA Revises Respiratory Protection Requirements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 05, 2019

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to evaluate whether air quality in their workplaces requires respiratory protection for workers, and to establish comprehensive evaluation and respiratory protection programs where necessary. In September, OSHA issued minor revisions to its respiratory protection requirements provisions for general industry (29 CFR 1910.134), adding two new quantitative fit testing protocols. Because of these changes,  now is a good time for employers to review requirements and compliance programs.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, Health & Safety, OSHA, Employee Rights, Environmental risks, EHS

Department of Justice Reemphasizes its Disfavor for Supplemental Environmental Project Agreements with State and Local Governments

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 15, 2019

Since President Trump took office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken repeated steps to restrict federal attorneys from negotiating settlements in which defendants agree to conduct “supplemental environmental projects (SEPs)” in exchange for reduced formal penalties for the noncompliance that led to the agency investigation and enforcement. Proponents see SEPs as a way to promote environmental and health values by encouraging defendants to undertake projects that wouldn’t occur otherwise in order to reduce or eliminate civil and/or criminal liability. Opponents see them as rogue efforts in which prosecutors substitute their own judgment for the statutory and regulatory directives that are supposed to guide their actions.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, EHS, EPA, clean water

EPA Decides Not to Require SPCCs to Address Hazardous Substance Spills

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Sep 24, 2019

The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to define “oil” and “hazardous substances”, and includes requirements that EPA establish “procedures, methods, and equipment and other requirements for equipment to prevent discharges of oil and hazardous substances from vessels and from onshore facilities and offshore facilities, and to contain such discharges….” (33 USC § 1321(j)(1)(C)) Since 1973, EPA has required owners and operators of non-transportation-related onshore and offshore facilities to establish and implement Spill Prevention, Countermeasure and Control (SPCC) Plans if they manage more than threshold levels of oils (I summarized these requirements here).

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EHS, EPA, Hazcom, effluent, Stormwater, clean water, spcc

Reporting EHS Releases – Responsibilities Continue Except For Some Farm Emissions

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jul 16, 2019

Among its many provisions, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA, in this case Section 304) requires facilities to report releases of specified hazardous and extremely hazardous substances, if the release exceeds an applicable threshold reportable quantity (RQ). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers these requirements, and has just approved an exemption for emissions from animal wastes at farms (this exemption tracks one amended into the Superfund law (CERCLA) in 2018). Other types of facilities and activities are still subject to these reporting requirements, so it’s a good time to review them.

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Tags: Health & Safety, Environmental risks, Environmental, EHS, EPA, Greenhouse Gas, ghg, Hazcom

EPA Takes Another Step To “Reform” Benefit Cost Analyses

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jul 09, 2019

Since President Trump took office, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a number of steps to narrow benefit-cost analyses, reversing expansive approaches used during the Obama Administration and narrowing the scope of “justifiable” environmental and health regulations. The latest such step appears in a May 13 memorandum from EPA Administrator Wheeler to his Assistant Administrators.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, EHS, EPA

California Proposes Universal Wastes Rules For Photovoltaics

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jun 11, 2019

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) assigns the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state hazardous waste agencies regulate “hazardous wastes,” including categories defined as “universal wastes” that are subject to reduced management requirements. EPA defines five categories, but also allows states to define additional categories (I wrote about this here). California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has just proposed to add a new category of state-regulated universal waste covering “photovoltaic [PV] modules” to its regulations under the state’s Hazardous Waste Control Law (HWCL). The remainder of today’s blog summarizes these proposed universal waste PV requirements.

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Tags: California Legislation, Environmental risks, Environmental, EHS, EPA, Hazcom, RCRA

Trump Administration Further Tightens Controls Over Agency Rulemaking

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Apr 30, 2019

The Trump Administration has taken another step to centralize its control over federal agencies’ rulemakings and policy-setting. Rulemaking has always reflected tensions between the politicians who adopt laws, and the agency staff who interpret and apply them through formal rules and information guidance and procedures. Depending how entrenched career staff are in their agencies, there may also be tensions between the elected executive (President, governor, etc.) and his or her agencies, even after his or her appointees are nominally in charge.

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Tags: Business & Legal, EHS, EPA