Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

EPA tightens Toxics Release Inventory reporting requirements for PFAS “Forever chemicals”

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Nov 20, 2023

On October 31, 2023 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tightened its reporting requirements for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – frequently called ‘forever chemicals” because they biodegrade very slowly – under its Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program. These changes finalize a proposal issued in (which I wrote about HERE), and reflect EPA’s agency-wide efforts to tighten controls on PFASs proposed in December 2022 (I wrote about these efforts HERE). The new TRI revisions apply to reports beginning in calendar year 2024. The remainder of this note summarizes these changes.

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Tags: Environmental, EPA, Environment, Environmental Policy, TRI, PFAS

EPA proposes management requirements for equipment containing HFCs

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Nov 06, 2023

On October 19, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to establish requirements for the management of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) potentially released from equipment during maintenance or other services, and manage spent HFCs.. These rules support US efforts to implement the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the United Nations-sponsored Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (which I wrote about HERE), and codified 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). EPA adopted its over-arching HFC phase-down rules in September 2021 (I wrote about them HERE), and continues to adjust and refine their requirements. The remainder of this note summarizes EPA’s new proposal, which would impose requirements using authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

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Tags: EPA, RCRA, Environment, HFCs, Environmental Policy, CCA, environmental protection, CFC

Pollution Prevention Plan requirements under Canadian Environmental Protection Act

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Sep 27, 2023

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999 (CEPA) provides a variety of federal environmental protection provisions throughout Canada. The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change (the Minister; who oversees Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and to which I attribute CEPA authorizations in this note) prepares regulations (including lists of chemicals regulated in different circumstances), and conducts additional planning, regulatory and enforcement activities. In particular, CEPA authorizes the Minister to issue Pollution Prevention Notices (P2 Notices) directing targeted entities to prepare P2 Plans to improve management of any listed “Toxic Substance” in order to reduce environmental impacts. The rest of this note summarizes P2 requirements, which will be revised to conform with CEPA amendments adopted this summer by Bill S-5, the “Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act” (S-5), which received Royal Assent on June 13, 2023.

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Tags: Environmental, Environment, Environmental Policy, Pollution, CEPA, environmental protection

EPA announces enforcement priorities for 2024-2027

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Sep 15, 2023

On August 17, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a memorandum announcing its National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives and continuing enforcement priorities for the upcoming fiscal years 2024-2027 (NECI memo). This announcement specifies existing initiatives that EPA will extend, and additional new ones. The NECI memo explains that EPA selected its priorities based on the following three criteria:

  • the need to address serious and widespread environmental issues and significant violations impacting human health and the environment, particularly in overburdened and vulnerable communities
  • a focus on areas where federal enforcement authorities, resources, and/or expertise are needed to hold polluters accountable and promote a level playing field
  • alignment with EPA’s Strategic Plan.

The remainder of this note summarizes the enforcement priorities expressed in the NECI memo.

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Tags: Environmental, EPA, Environmental Policy, NECI

FTC considering changes to environmental advertising “Green Guides”

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Jan 04, 2023

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) administers longstanding protections against advertising that uses “false” or “misleading” advertising to induce consumers to buy products that do not perform as advertised, or that produce consequences different from those advertised. FTC’s rules include its “Guides for the use of environmental marketing claims” – generally called “Green Guides” (16 CFR part 260). FTC first issued the Green Guides thirty years ago in 1992 and revised them in 1996, 1998, and 2012. (I most recently discussed the Guides, and the FTC Act of 1914, HERE ). On December 14, 2022, FTC voted to seek public comment on the content and interpretation of meaning of the existing Guides, and the sorts of changes and updates that would enhance their ongoing value to consumers. The remainder of this note summarizes the existing Green Guides, and FTC’s questions for public comment.

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Tags: Environmental, Environmental Policy, FTC

Proposal to Require Climate Risks and Resilience Plans from Significant Federal Suppliers

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Nov 28, 2022

On November 10, the Biden Administration announced a proposal to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to require “major federal suppliers” and “significant federal suppliers” to disclose their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and assessments of climate-related risks, and to set targets for GHG emission reductions. The rest of this note summarizes this proposal.

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Tags: Environmental, Greenhouse Gas, ghg, CO2 Emissions, Environment, Environmental Policy, Climate, FAR, NASA, DOD

EPA releases data from latest mandatory greenhouse gas emission reports

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Nov 18, 2022

For over a decade, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required thousands of facilities and organizations to report annual emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) (40 CFR part 98). The most recent reports were due in April 2022, covering 2021 emissions from more than 8,000 entities (I summarized these requirements HERE https://blog.stpub.com/mandatory-ghg-epa-reports-due-april-1-2022). EPA has now published summary compilations of these data, showing an overall 4% increase in emissions compared with 2020. EPA attributes the increases to economic expansion coming out of the COVID-induced downturn, and reminds readers that reported emissions are generally lower than in those first reported for 2010-2011.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, Greenhouse Gas, CO2 Emissions, Environmental Policy

US Senate ratifies Kigali Amendment to phase down HFCs

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Oct 21, 2022

On September 17, 2022 the United States Senate voted 69-27 to ratify the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the United Nations-sponsored Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (which I wrote about here), establishing international agreement to phase down production and consumption of specified hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs). Aye votes vote included all the Democratic Senators present, and 29 Republicans. These HFCs are used in refrigeration and air conditioning and fire suppression, and as foam blowing agents and solvents. Although the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already administers rules with the same requirements, the ratification will return the US to the international table.

The US had been a major player in the drafting and enactment of the Kigali Amendment (during President Obama’s administration), but then withdrew its support (during President Trump’s administration). However, the US enacted Kigali-like requirements in the December 2020 coronavirus relief bill (American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act)), among the many provisions buried within its 5,593 pages; EPA finalized its rules in September 2021 (I wrote about these rules here).

The remainder of this note summarizes the situation.

Why are HFCs being phased down, and how?

HFCs were developed primarily as substitutes for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are the principal ozone depleting substances (ODSs) targeted by the Montreal Protocol. HFCs have lower but non-zero ozone depleting potential, and are greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Accordingly, nearly 30 years after the initial 1987 approval of the Montreal Protocol roughly 200 national and international parties negotiated HFC phase-downs. As adopted in Kigali, Rwanda these amendments divide countries into three groups with different schedules and targets:

  • developed nations including the United States – cut consumption to 90% of 2011-2013 baseline of most HFCs (plus 15% of those already covered by the Protocol) by 2019, declining to 15% by 2036
  • most developing nations, including China and over 100 others - consumption to peak in 2024 at 100% of 2011-2013 baseline of most HFCs (plus 25% of those already covered by the Protocol), declining to 20% by 2045
  • 10 hot-climate developing countries (where air conditioning is particularly important), including India, Pakistan and some Gulf states - consumption to peak in 2028 at 100% of 2011-2013 baseline of most HFCs (plus 25% of those already covered by the Protocol), declining to 15% by 2047

After the Trump administration replaced the Obama administration, the US took no action on this agreement. During this period, however, other countries have moved forward to ratify and work to meet their commitments.

What HFC-related provisions did the AIM Act enact?

The massive coronavirus relief bill includes Division S (“Innovation for the Environment”), with section 103 (“American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020”). Without mentioning the Kigali Amendment, section 103 incorporates its requirements into US law:

  • the legislation lists 18 specific HFCs, and authorizes EPA to designate additional formulations
  • EPA was to calculate 2011-2013 production and consumption baselines for each, and to use these to calculate future phase-down levels ranging from 90% in 2020 to 15% in 2036 and thereafter
  • EPA was to issue regulations with 270 days (by 9/23/21) to set phase-down requirements, with associated procedural requirements including allowances associated with each baseline amount, and reclamation and destruction methods

EPA’s rules are designed to meet these requirements. In addition, EPA has initiated or re-invigorated other programs to support the phase-down of HFCs and their replacement by refrigerants that are less harmful to global climate and the stratospheric ozone layer.

What now?

Ratification will become official once the US submits formal notification to the United Nations. The new rules took effect on November 4, 2021 and are progressing; EPA proposed 2024-reduction formulas on October 20, 2022.. While domestic requirements will not change from those enacted through the AIM Act, ratification returns the US to the center of international HFC-reduction efforts, and reinforces national commitments to the environment.

IImplementation Checklist

  • Does the organization manufacture, import or use any ozone depleting substance (ODS) subject to the Montreal Protocol and/or CAA Title VI?
  • If the phase-out date for any ODS has passed, do any of the organization’s activities qualify with applicable exceptions or essential uses?
  • Does the organization manufacture, import or use any HFCs?
  • Has the organization reviewed any such activity to identify alternatives for any HFC that is or may become subject to phase-down under US and international law?

Where do I go for more information?

Information available via the Internet includes:

● US legislation

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Tags: Environmental risks, Greenhouse Gas, climate change, Environment, HFCs, Ozone Layer, Environmental Policy, Climate

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