Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

EPA and the Corps of Engineers Finish Redefining “Waters of the United States”

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Mar 18, 2020

On January 23, 2020 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) finalized revisions to narrow their joint regulatory definitions of “waters of the United States”, applying authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The agencies characterize this narrowing as an increase in certainty for stakeholders, accomplished by eliminating some of the site-specific discretion that the 2015 rules provided to permit writers.

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

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

Trump Administration 2021 Budget Proposal Would Cut EPA

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Feb 19, 2020

On February 10, the Trump Administration issued its budget proposal for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 (October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021), entitled “A Budget for America’s Future.” The drastic changes in budgeting for environmental health and safety (EH&S) regulation are consistent with previous proposals from this administration. They have no chance of adoption, particularly given the Democrats’ control of the House of Representatives, but still represent a fair summary of the President’s continuing priorities.

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

New EPA Policy Redefines “Ambient” Air on Stationary Source Sites

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jan 28, 2020

Although a major focus of the Clean Air Act (CAA) is the definition, attainment and maintenance of national ambient air quality standards (NAAQSs), the statute doesn’t define the term “ambient air.” This gap leaves the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop regulatory and policy definitions that delimit the reach of CAA authority. Since 1971, EPA’s definition defines “ambient air” as “that portion of the atmosphere, external to buildings, to which the general public has access.” EPA also provides additional details in a series of policy documents, which have just been updated with a  memorandum from EPA Administrator Wheeler to expand the exclusions for onsite air.

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

EPA Completes Re-Revisions to Accidental Release Prevention Rules

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Dec 23, 2019

On November 20, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed its latest review and revisions to the Accidental Release Prevention (ARP) program for toxic catastrophe prevention under the Clean Air Act (CAA). These changes complete the Trump Administration’s review and repeal of most changes enacted during the Obama Administration, returning ARP requirements to roughly the point they were at before 2016. The remainder of this note summarizes these changes.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, Hazcom, CAA

EPA Adds Aerosol Cans to Universal Wastes

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Dec 19, 2019

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) assigns the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to define and then regulate “hazardous wastes.” RCRA provides EPA considerable discretion, and one way the agency applies that discretion is by separating hazardous wastes into categories that are subject to distinct waste management requirements. One basis for these categorizations is relative risk – since 1995, EPA has defined a limited set of lower-risk wastes as “universal wastes” subject to special rules intended to encourage recycling (40 CFR part 273).

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, Hazcom, RCRA

EPA Seeking to Enhance Water Quality Trading

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Dec 12, 2019

For nearly 30 years, environmental regulation has included examples of market-like mechanisms, where overall pollution limits (“budgets”) are set and individual sources assigned trade-able “emission credits” that can be traded among sources as they negotiate the most efficient pathways to overall reduction necessary to meet the budget. Although proliferating “cap and trade” systems for greenhouse gases are probably the most widely known, other examples abound.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, clean water

EPA Proposes to Revise Rule Governing Lead in Drinking Water

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Dec 10, 2019

Since 1991, Safe Drinking Water Act’s (SDWA) Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) has required public water systems (PWSs) to take steps to protect their customers from hazardous levels of lead in drinking water. Even before the highly-publicized crisis in Flint, Michigan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was working to update and expand LCR’s protective measures. These efforts include a 2016 White Paper announcing the “urgent need” for revisions, describing key issues and possible revisions, and projecting a proposal to issue extensive LCR revisions during 2017. However, after President Trump assumed office, EPA’s priorities shifted and the agency delayed action (I summarized the existing LCR and wrote about EPA’s regulatory delay here). In November 2019, EPA proposed LCR changes, which I summarize below.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, clean water

EPA’s Superfund Task Force Issues Final Report

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 29, 2019

In May 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) convened a task force of career professionals to evaluate the agency’s Superfund cleanup policies and make recommendations for improvements. The Task Force issued recommendations in December 2017  (I wrote about them here), and has now issued its final report. The report includes multiple examples of accomplishments related to each of the Task Force’s five goals.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, site auditing

Feds Issue Nationwide Motor Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Standards and Declare California’s Standards to be Preempted

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 22, 2019

The federal government has taken another step in its car wars with California. Late in September the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued joint rules declaring NHTSA’s preemptive authority to set national standards covering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from petroleum-fueled vehicles and electric vehicles, and revoking a waiver from EPA that lets California set such standards.

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Tags: California Legislation, Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, ghg, Transportation, greenhouse