Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

EPA estimates that hundreds of thousands of diesel trucks have been modified to defeat Clean Air Act emission limits

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jan 25, 2021

The Clean Air Act (CAA) authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set emission standards for motor vehicles and engines. Although the primary focus is on Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards for new vehicles, set jointly by EPA and the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (I’ve discussed ongoing disputes about the latest CAFÉ standards several times, including HERE), EPA and states also have authority over post-sale “aftermarket” equipment and modifications to vehicles.

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Tags: EPA, CAA, CAFÉ, NHTSA, COC, AECDs, DOT's

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

EPA adopts rules for hazardous air pollutant sources to reclassify from “major” to “area” using administrative controls

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Dec 08, 2020

The Clean Air Act (CAA) directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to define “hazardous air pollutants (HAPs)” that may pose acute health hazards, and to impose regulations to reduce those hazards. EPA requires permits for “major sources” of HAPs based on “Maximum Achievable Control Technologies (MACT),” and lesser controls for non-major “area sources.” During President Trump’s term, EPA has pursued several initiatives to make it easier for sources to reclassify from “major” to “area” in order to reduce their regulatory responsibilities.

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Tags: EPA, CAA, NESHAPs, HAPs, PTE

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

Cleaning up after wildfires

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Sep 29, 2020

Western North America is suffering from huge wildfires this year. I’ve written pieces discussing ways to protect workplaces from fire (HERE) and to protect workers during wildfires (HERE). Today’s note discusses worker safety during cleanup after wildfires. I synthesize guidance from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California EPA (CalEPA), and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

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Tags: OSHA, EPA, CDC, workplace safety, Wildfire, Cal-Fire, California, CalEPA, CDPH

EPA revises ignitability characteristic of hazardous waste

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Aug 12, 2020

National waste management laws and regulations provide management requirements to the perceived hazards of each category, under overall regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Effective September 8, 2020, EPA will make extensive technical revisions to its standards for the “ignitability characteristic”, so entities that generate or manage wastes that might be ignitable should now review those wastes and associated management requirements.

 

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Tags: Environmental, EPA, Hazardous Waste, SWDA

Supreme Court decision provides Superfund Responsible Parties with some relief

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jul 27, 2020

Forty years ago, the federal “Superfund” law -- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) – was enacted to provide legal requirements and procedural methodologies to speed identification and cleanup of contamination. Today, cleanups continue and the requirements and procedures continue to evolve. In April, the United States Supreme Court issued its latest decision interpreting a Superfund provision, this one defining clearer limitations on when the owners of contaminated land can force Responsible Parties for that contamination to pay for cleanup more extensive (and expensive) than cleanup ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The case is Atlantic Richfield Company v. Christian.

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Tags: EPA, RCRA, clean water, Supreme Court, Superfund law, CERCLA, The Montana Supreme Court