President Biden is moving quickly to review and revise many of former President Trump’s administrative actions. As I discussed HERE, the fastest mechanisms for these reversals are executive orders (EOs) and slightly less formal executive memoranda from the President or his agency heads. One of the EOs signed on president Biden’s first day of office starts immediate action to review all Trump administrative actions. EO 13990 of January 20, 2021, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis”, applies to all federal agencies but focuses on President Trump’s environmental actions. The remainder of this note discusses this particular EO.
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
President Biden and the Democratic majorities in Congress have announced sweeping plans to reverse most of the Trump Administration’s environmental policies. The timing and practicality of these reversals depends very much on each of the targeted policy’s legal status – laws, regulations, Executive Orders, or guidance documents. The remainder of this note comments on each of these sets of situations, highlighting examples of each. I’ll discuss them in order ranging from quickest/easiest to most time consuming/difficult.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed a long review, and reaffirmed the primary National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM), including those for PM-10 (particulates with an aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to 10 microns) and PM-2.5 (less than or equal to 2.5 microns; also call “fines”). On December 4, EPA announced it would retain the PM standards set in 2013, despite comments presenting recent scientific evidence – including evidence that higher pollution levels exacerbate harm from COVID-19 -- and seeking tighter standards.
During President Trump’s term, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a number of steps to narrow benefit-cost analyses (BCAs), reversing expansive approaches used during the Obama Administration and thereby reducing the calculated benefits of environmental and health regulations. EPA announced what will probably be the last such step on December 4, by adopting a new Part 83 in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) entitled “Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Benefits and Costs in Clean Air Act Rulemaking Process.” (I wrote about less formal guidance in a May 2019 memorandum from EPA Administrator Wheeler to his Assistant Administrators HERE.)
California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) established waste management rules for solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, to become effective on January 1, 2021. These rules are adopted under the state Hazardous Waste Control Law (HWCL), applying “universal waste” authority permissible under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) RCRA regulations. EPA defines five universal waste categories, and also allows states to define additional categories (I wrote about this HERE). The remainder of today’s blog summarizes these universal waste PV requirements (which include dozens of revisions to proposed state rules I discussed HERE).Read More
When are changes to an existing system so extensive that they produce a “new” system? This question is conceptually important in any evolving organization, and can have important regulatory consequences if requirements for “existing” systems are substantially different than those for “new” systems. Emissions regulations under the Clean Air Act (CAA) contain many such situations, and on October 22 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted changes to the “project emissions accounting” it uses to decide whether modifications to an existing major source are so extensive as to trigger preconstruction New Source Review (NSR) requirements. This revision codifies into regulations a policy changed announced in 2018.Read More
I’ve written numerous times in this space about specific efforts by the Trump administration to reduce environmental regulation and enforcement. A new study from the University of Michigan Law School quantifies reductions in the administration’s criminal enforcement levels. The report is part of the school’s “Environmental Crimes Project,” and includes the first two years of the Trump Administration as the latest in a 14-year series of federal environmental enforcement data. Readers should note that federal criminal environmental enforcement is brought by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); EPA and delegated state agencies bring their own civil cases, and most state criminal enforcement is brought by state prosecutors on behalf of state regulatory agencies (I summarized agency enforcement in the first year of the Trump administration HERE).Read More