Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

US joins the world in HFC phasedown

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, May 11, 2021

On April 30, 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed rules to phase down production and consumption of specified hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs), consistent with directives included in the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the United Nations-sponsored Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. These rules were authorized by the massive coronavirus relief bill (American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act)) enacted in December 2020, which included dozens of unrelated provisions within its 5,593 pages.

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Tags: EPA, climate change, Environment, HFCs, Montreal Protocol, Ozone Layer, AIM Act, ODS

EPA Revises Multi-Sector General Permit For Industrial Stormwater Discharges

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, May 05, 2021

Effective March 1, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a revised “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Multi-Sector General Permit for Discharges from industrial Activities” (MSGP).” This new 2021 MSGP replaces EPA’s 2015 MSGP (which expired in 2020 but was continued by administrative fiat). Compliance begins May 30, 2021 for facilities that have been subject to the 2015 MSGP. Even though EPA's direct permit authority applies only in limited parts of the country, the new MSGP provides a reminder to organizations nationwide that stormwater management efforts need to be thorough and up-to-date.

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Tags: EPA, Stormwater, clean water, NPDES, Environment, MSGP

Biden directs agencies to review all Trump administrative actions

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Feb 22, 2021

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. 

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Tags: Environmental, climate change, Environment, Environmental Policy

How, and how fast, can Democrats make environmental policy changes they’ve promised?

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Feb 17, 2021

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.

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Tags: Environmental, climate change, Environment, Environmental Policy

EPA reaffirms national particulate standards

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jan 18, 2021

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.

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Tags: EPA, CAA, Environment, NAAQS

EPA revises benefit-cost analyses for air rules

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jan 12, 2021

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.)

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Tags: EPA, CAA, Environment, BCA

California Adopts Universal Wastes Rules For Photovoltaics

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Nov 23, 2020

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).

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Tags: EPA, RCRA, Environment, HWCL, Photovoltaics, DTSC, PV Wastes

EPA revises regulatory methodology for determining whether source modifications trigger “new” source review

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Nov 02, 2020

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.

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Tags: EPA, CAA, Environment, PSD, NSR

Study compares environmental enforcement during Trump administration with predecessors

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Oct 28, 2020

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).

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Tags: OSHA, EPA, RCRA, CAA, DOJ, CWA, Environment, ESA, SWMA

Environmental policy: what are the Democrats promising

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 20, 2020

As the 2020 Presidential election approaches its close, both major parties’ major environmental proposals have been formalized. As the incumbent party, the Republican National Committee decided not to adopt a formal election platform, and instead adopted a resolution promising continuity, the most substantive provision of which is “That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.” (I summarized candidate Trump’s 2016 proposals HERE, and have written dozens of blogs summarizing specific actions since that election).
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Tags: climate change, Environment, Clean Air Act, Republican Party, 2020 US Presidential election, Clean Energy, Democratic Party