Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Biden Administration again requests significant EPA budget increases

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Mar 27, 2023

On March 9, the Biden Administration issued its budget proposal for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 (October 1, 2023 through September 30, 2024). The administration proposes a $11.08 billion budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a 19% ($1.9 billion) increase above EPA’s adopted 2023 budget of $10.1 billion – similar to the administration’s proposals for FY 2023 ($11.9 billion; I wrote about it HERE), and FY 2022 proposal ($11.2 billion; I wrote about it HERE). In both years Congress cut the President’s proposals considerably, and it’s likely to do so again. However, it’s worth reviewing the Administration’s ongoing environmental priorities, so I will summarize the latest proposal in the rest of this note.

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Tags: EPA, FY, FTE, Joe Biden

Washington conducts first sales under its new state greenhouse gas cap-and-invest program

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Mar 20, 2023

The Washington state Department of Ecology (Ecology) has just conducted its first auction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission allowances, under the state’s Climate Commitment Act (or CCA) which establishes a comprehensive, market-based program to reduce carbon pollution and achieve greenhouse gas limits set in state law. The CCA was one of a package of climate-related laws passed in 2021, including the Clean Fuel Standard, and an expanded hydrofluorocarbons management program. The remainder of this note discusses CCA and the recent sale of GHG allowances.

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Tags: Greenhouse Gas, ghg, greenhouse, CO2 Emissions, Washington, CCA

OSHA considering changes to Voluntary Prevention Programs

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Mar 13, 2023

Since 1982, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has administered “Voluntary Protection Programs” (VPPs) to encourage employers to establish and implement worker Safety and Health Programs that exceed minimal efforts to comply with applicable OSHA standards. OSHA designs VPP eligibility to encourage employer/employee/OSHA cooperation, and to reward such cooperation by granting employers increased flexibility and reduced likelihood of inspection. OSHA presently oversees three programs (which I described in more detail HERE), and is undertaking a “VPP Modernization” initiative to evaluate ways for “modernizing, improving, and expanding” these efforts. On February 16 OSHA posted questions about possible changes, which I discuss in the rest of this note.

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Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, Safety and Health at Work, Employment, VPP

OSHA applies General Duty Clause to protect warehouse employees

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Mar 06, 2023

On February 1, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued citations to Amazon company warehouses in three states, continuing investigations into the company’s practices in other states. OSHA is asserting that the company is violating the Employer’s General Duty Clause by failing to protect warehouse workers from low back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders. Although California enforces specific ergonomics requirements (which I’ve written about HERE), OSHA and other states instead regulate ergonomics violations by targeted industries through their General Duty Clauses. The remainder of this note discusses these recent OSHA efforts to protect warehouse workers.

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Tags: OSHA, Employee Rights, Protecting employees, Employment, Labour & Employment, Amazon

Time for annual Injury and Illness summaries

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Mar 01, 2023

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires most employers to prepare and maintain records of occupational injuries and illnesses (I&I Logs) as they occur. OSHA also requires employers to post an annual I&I Summary in each “establishment” within their workplace by February 1, summarizing that workplace’s I&Is during the previous calendar year. Delegated state-run programs impose comparable requirements. Furthermore, OSHA requires some employers to submit their summaries electronically to OSHA – this year by March 3, 2023. The rest of this note summarizes the current requirements.

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Tags: OSHA, NAICS, Injury, Illness, BLS

NIOSH offers Best Practice guidance for employers that host “temp” workers’

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 28, 2023

Is your organization hiring "temp" workers —to hedge your labor costs while gearing back up after COVID-19 perhaps? If so, occupational safety and health agencies consider your employer to be the “host employer” of these workers, and provides requirements to protect them against occupational hazards. Last year I summarized the latest US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance (HERE). Last month, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a new guidance, “Protecting Temporary Workers: Best Practices for Host Employers.” The remainder of this note summarized this NIOSH guidance, which is primarily organized into three sections.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, OSHA, Cal/OSHA

OSHA reminds employers about carbon monoxide hazards

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Feb 24, 2023

On February 7, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a reminder to employers to protect employees from workplace carbon monoxide (CO) risks, particularly those associated with wintertime use of portable generators and heating equipment inside enclosed spaces. That reminder includes links to OSHA’s “Carbon Monoxide Fact Sheet,” which outlines hazards and appropriate employer responses. The rest of this note discusses OSHA’s explanation of these risks and how to manage them.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, OSHA, Employment, Carbon Dioxide

EPA and Corps of Engineers finalize re-definition of “Waters of the United States"

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 21, 2023

On January 18, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) adopted revised definitions of “waters of the United States.” The Clean Water Act (CWA) empowers federal agencies to regulate activities that may affect “waters of the United States”—sometimes called “navigable waters.” These activities include water quality planning and discharge regulation by EPA and delegated states, and regulation of projects that may lead to “dredge and fill” of waters, requiring permits from the Corps. The remainder of this note offers a brief summary of the last 20 years of judicial reinterpretations and regulatory responses, and discusses the latest revisions.


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Tags: EPA, Clear water, Environment, water

US tightens federal standards for heavy-duty vehicles

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Feb 08, 2023

On January 24, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published tighter standards for emissions from “heavy-duty” engines and vehicles, beginning with model year 2027. These new standards form the important first step toward implementation of EPA’s Clean Truck Plan, which has the ultimate goal of zero emissions from motor vehicles. The new standards are more than 80% stronger than current standards, which have been in place more than 20 years. These changes therefore continue the recent trend toward tighter federal emission standards for motor vehicles, including light-duty vehicles (automobiles and light trucks; I discussed the latest rules for light-duty vehicles, covering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for model years 2023-2026 HERE). The remainder of this note discusses the latest heavy-duty vehicle standards.

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Tags: EPA, ghg, CAA

California adopts nonemergency COVID vaccination and testing rules

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jan 23, 2023

Since 2021, occupational safety and health agencies have enacted a variety of rules addressing the workplace hazards of the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies have generally used their emergency authority, which allow more administrative leeway to speed enactment but then require automatic expiration within months (although re-enactments are possible). I’ve written about a number of these efforts, including the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “emergency temporary standard (ETS),” which was stymied by litigation (see HERE). Some states have enacted their own ETSs; California adopted its own ETS and then readopted it every 180 days in order to keep rules in force (see HERE).

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Tags: Coronavirus, Covid-19, California