The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to ban a number of longstanding uses of chrysotile asbestos, using expanded authority provided as part of amendments adopted to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 2016. This proposal is EPA’s latest step to apply its expanded authority to review and restrict uses of asbestos, renewing agency efforts from the 1980s that were blocked by litigation.Read More
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
On March 28, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed regulations requiring “non-transportation-related onshore facilities” to prepare response plans covering possible releases of hazardous substances, and submit those plans to EPA. This proposal implements longstanding but unused EPA authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The remainder of this note discusses the proposal.
On March 28, the Biden Administration issued its budget proposal for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 (October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023). The administration proposes a $11.9 billion budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a 29% ($2.6 billion) increase above EPA’s adopted 2022 budget of $9.6 billion – similar to the administration’s FY 2022 proposal of $11.2 billion (which I wrote about HERE), which Congress cut considerably.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to expand and refine environmental compliance requirements, including those related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In particular, facilities and organizations subject to EPA's mandatory GHG emission reporting rules should be preparing to submit reports covering calendar year 2021. The remainder of this note summarizes these requirements.
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 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and delegated states, and regulation of projects that may lead to “dredge and fill” of waters, requiring permits from the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).
However, CWA does not define this critical term. For many years, agencies used regulatory definitions jointly developed by EPA and the Corps in rules that date primarily from 1986, which included ambiguities that increased agency discretion but also frustrated landowner aspirations in some cases. However, beginning in 2001 a series of decisions by the US Supreme Court frayed the expansive edges of the regulators’ interpretations. First, in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (SWANCC), the Court ruled that the Corps lacks jurisdiction over “isolated” waters and wetlands that are not “adjacent” to navigable waters—such as “prairie potholes,” mudflats, and freshwater seasonal ponds. Then, in Rapanos v. United States, the Court ruled in 2006 that the Corps can exert jurisdiction over non-adjacent wetlands where there is a “significant nexus” between the wetlands and navigable waters (in addition, the wetlands must be at least “relatively permanent”).Read More
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
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
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.