In 1976, an important motivation for enactment of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was to empower the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to control polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which had been developed as superlative insulation fluids but had come to be recognized as persistent toxic contaminants that bioaccumulate in the environment. TSCA banned the manufacturing, processing and distribution of new PCBs effective January 1, 1978, except in a “totally enclosed manner” or with an express exemption from EPA (including a finding that the exempt activity does not pose an “unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment”). Even enclosed activities were banned beginning in 1979, unless with an express exemption from EPA. Additional provisions apply to non-banned activities, and to the cleanup and disposal of PCB-containing wastes. PCBs remain in use in enclosed/exempt locations throughout the country, and new contamination is identified from new leaks and legacy sites.Read More
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
On November 15, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its “2021 National Recycling Strategy,” which summarizes recent efforts to organize support for recycling of solid wastes – typically referred to in regulatory parlance as “municipal solid waste (MSW)” – and sets out near-term priorities for further progress to reach a national recycling rate of 50% by 2030. The Strategy notes that “The U.S. MSW recycling system currently faces a number of challenges, including confusion about what materials can be recycled, recycling infrastructure that has not kept pace with today’s diverse and changing waste stream, reduced markets for recycled materials, and varying methodologies to measure recycling system performance.” EPA characterizes this Strategy as “part one in a series of strategies to help us re-envision how we use materials more broadly.” As part of these broader considerations, the Strategy incorporates contemporary emphases on environmental justice and climate change. (I’ve recently written about state-level initiatives including “product stewardship” HERE and HERE). The remainder of this note summarizes this policy document.Read More
On October 18, the federal government announced comprehensive plans to design and implement protections against perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – often referred to as “forever chemicals.” PFAS have been manufactured and used since the 1940s and are now found in many environmental settings, and most Americans’ blood. These plans were rolled out through statements by President Biden and longer pronouncements by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Defense, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Health and Human Services.
The remainder of this note provides basic information about PFAS, and EPA’s new “PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA’s Commitments to Action 2021-2024.”Read More
October 17 was the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA, also referred to as SARA Title III). EPCRA presents several separate programs, including release prevention and reporting for a fairly short list of extremely hazardous substances (which I discussed HERE), inventory reporting for most hazardous materials (which I discussed HERE), and filing of annual toxic chemical release inventory reports with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state, on one of two forms (Form R or Form A) – usually called the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program (which I’ve discussed several times, including HERE).
EPA is celebrating the TRI program anniversary on its website. Meanwhile, the agency has also proposed to add an additional dozen chemicals to the TRI reporting list. The reminder of this note summarizes these activities.Read More
In September 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Division of Corporation Finance (Division) provided public companies with guidance about disclosures of climate-related information that SEC expects from public companies. This guidance appears in a newly-released template with sample comments the Division may issue to companies regarding failures to make adequate climate-related disclosure. The remainder of this note provides some context to the relevant SEC-administered provisions, and summarizes the Division’s new letter.
On September 23, 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced final rules to phase down production and consumption of specified hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs) (I wrote about the proposal HERE). These HFCs are used in refrigeration and air conditioning and fire suppression, and as foam blowing agents and solvents. These rules are consistent with directives included in the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the United Nations-sponsored Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (which I wrote about HERE). The US finally enacted statutory support for Kigali-like requirements in the December 2020 coronavirus relief bill (American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act)), which included dozens of unrelated provisions within its 5,593 pages.
Organizations around the world are responding to the latest climate-related risk assessment produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which replaced earlier cautionary information with an urgent warning that climate change is “widespread, rapid, and intensifying.” On August 31, the US Federal Insurance Office (FIO), an element of the Department of the Treasury, published a “Request for Information on the Insurance Sector and Climate-Related financial Risks” (RFI) in the Federal Register, posing 19 questions it will use to focus its application of climate-related risks to the domestic insurance sector. Insurers should obviously be interested in these questions and their answers, but any entity that buys insurance should consider them as well. The remainder of this note summarizes FIO’s questions.
In recent years, governments around the world have extended solid waste management efforts to support—and in some cases require—recycling and resource recovery efforts to divert more solid wastes from landfills, and to substitute reused materials or raw materials. Increasingly, specialized stewardship programs target particular types of hazardous wastes – used oils, spent batteries, etc. – the national advocacy group Product Stewardship Institute identifies more than 120 such programs spread among 34 US states (I introduced these efforts HERE). Maine already has a number of these programs.Read More
Solid waste management has come a long way since enactment of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) of 1965 to address the national “landfill crisis.” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) applies SWDA authority to adopt landfill standards, which are administered by state and local governments. EPA also empowers these state and local governments to do more, not just through additional disposal standards, but through expanded requirements for recycling and resource recovery efforts designed to keep more solid wastes out of landfills. In addition, extended management programs impose “product stewardship” and “extended producer responsibility” on manufacturers. This note discusses these introduces these ideas, and summarizes the extent of state programs that apply them.
Within the US federal government, the Department of Justice (DOJ) enforces many civil and criminal laws directly, and also provides the attorneys who represent federal agencies in enforcement cases. For example, DOJ’s “US attorneys” represent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in cases under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, etc. In doing so, DOJ provides those attorneys with departmental policies to guide their activities – as a practical matter, DOJ policies supersede any conflicting client-agency policies. It’s therefore important, that since the Biden administration assumed office, Attorney General Garland and his deputies have moved aggressively to review and revise departmental policies inherited from the Trump administration. The remainder of this note discusses some of these changes.Read More