Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

EPA to reconsider management of containers that held hazardous waste

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Aug 22, 2023

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) applies its authority under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to set national requirements for containers – such as drums – that may be contaminated after use to accumulate hazardous chemicals and wastes. These rules include the “empty container rule” first promulgated in 1980. On August 11, 2023 EPA published in the Federal Register a “Used Drum Management and Reconditioning Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” (ANPRM), setting forth the agency’s thinking about existing container management requirements and possible enhancements and regulatory and non-regulatory alternatives to its existing approaches. The rest of this note summarizes EPA’s ruminations, which may lead to a formal rulemaking.

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Tags: EPA, RCRA, Hazardous Waste

EPA adds Diisononyl Phthalate Category to Toxics Release Inventory chemical list

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jul 24, 2023

Effective September 12, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added a new chemical category to its Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program - Diisononyl Phthalates (DINP). EPA administers TRI as one of the distinct [programs created by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA, also referred to as SARA Title III). This is the latest step in EPA’s review and updating of TRI, underway since President Biden assumed office.  (I’ve discussed TRI several times, most recently HERE). The rest of this note discusses this latest change, which will require TRI reporting by subject facilities beginning with 2024 data.

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Tags: EPA, TRI, DINP

EPA clarifies management requirements for waste lithium-ion batteries

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jul 18, 2023

On May 24, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a memo (“Lithium Battery Recycling Regulatory Status and Frequently Asked Questions”) clarifying regulatory requirements for spent lithium-ion batteries, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA’s memo acknowledges that lithium-ion batteries power our electronics, lawnmowers, e-scooters, electric bicycles, and rapidly increasing numbers of electric cars, so numbers of spent batteries are also growing rapidly. In this memo, EPA evaluates RCRA’s applicability to lithium-ion batteries, particularly:

  • Universal waste handling provisions
  • Hazardous waste recycling provisions
  • Other RCRA requirements

Based on its analysis, EPA offers clarification that most waste lithium-ion batteries are “likely” hazardous waste, which can be managed under universal waste handling standards until they reach a destination facility for recycling or discard. The rest of this note summarizes information in EPA’s memo.

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Tags: EPA, RCRA, Hazardous Waste

EPA proposes to update and expand mandatory greenhouse gas emission reporting requirements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Jul 14, 2023

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), in what it refers to as its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) (40 CFR part 98). On May 22, 2023, EPA published an extensive set of proposals to update and expand existing requirements. These proposals supplement and supersede proposals published in June 2022 but not acted on by the agency. The remainder of this note summarizes these proposals, focusing not on the many technical revisions to existing requirements but on proposals to target additional activities with reporting requirements. (I’ve written about EPA’s mandatory GHG reporting program several times, including HERE).

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Tags: Environmental, EPA, Greenhouse Gas, Environment

Supreme Court narrows “Waters of the United States”

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, May 29, 2023

On May 25, the United States Supreme court issued its latest decision interpreting the term “waters of the United States” – increasingly referred to by practitioners as “WOTUS” – subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA) (Sackett v. EPA). This decision narrows the geographic and hydrologic circumstances under which “wetlands” can be considered WOTUS, reinterpreting previous Supreme Court decisions and effectively overruling the latest efforts by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to define WOTUS subject to their respective CWA jurisdictional authorities. (I’ve written several times about the agencies’ rule making efforts, most recently HERE). The remainder of this note summarizes the Supreme Court’s new definition, and the changes it imposes on the physical extent of CWA jurisdiction.

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Tags: EPA, CWA, WOTUS

Federal Agencies Adjust Civil Penalty Levels for Inflation

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, May 15, 2023

Most regulatory laws provide for civil – and sometimes even criminal – penalties for noncompliance. New legislation typically sets penalty levels (“XXX dollars per day of violation” for example), at levels intended to provide meaningful deterrence and punishment for noncompliance. But over time, the relative sting of these penalties declines with inflation. To counteract the possibility that less painful penalties provide less effective incentives for compliance, U.S. law directs most federal agencies to make annual “cost of living” adjustments to maximum available civil penalty levels (there are no provisions for standing periodic adjustments to criminal penalties).

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Tags: EHS, EPA, Inflation

EPA publishes Draft National Strategy to Prevent Plastic Pollution

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, May 08, 2023

On May 2, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its “Draft National Strategy to Prevent Plastic Pollution,” and issued a formal request for public comments. EPA notes that over the last 20 years, the global annual production of plastic products has more than doubled, and that roughly 23% of global plastic waste is improperly disposed, burned, or leaked into the environment. North America both produces and consumes roughly 19% of global plastics.  To address these issues, the Draft Strategy identifies a set of voluntary actions intended to reduce the volumes of plastic wastes the end up disposed or discarded within the US. EPA describes these measures, and the agency’s related activities, as “endeavors to provide an innovative, equitable approach to reduce and recover plastic and other waste, as well as prevent plastic pollution from harming human health and the environment, particularly for communities already overburdened by pollution.”  The remainder of this note summarizes the 48 pages of the Draft Strategy.

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Tags: EPA, pollutants, plastics

Biden Administration again requests significant EPA budget increases

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Mar 27, 2023

On March 9, the Biden Administration issued its budget proposal for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 (October 1, 2023 through September 30, 2024). The administration proposes a $11.08 billion budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a 19% ($1.9 billion) increase above EPA’s adopted 2023 budget of $10.1 billion – similar to the administration’s proposals for FY 2023 ($11.9 billion; I wrote about it HERE), and FY 2022 proposal ($11.2 billion; I wrote about it HERE). In both years Congress cut the President’s proposals considerably, and it’s likely to do so again. However, it’s worth reviewing the Administration’s ongoing environmental priorities, so I will summarize the latest proposal in the rest of this note.

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Tags: EPA, FY, FTE, Joe Biden

EPA and Corps of Engineers finalize re-definition of “Waters of the United States"

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 21, 2023

On January 18, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) adopted revised definitions of “waters of the United States.” 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 EPA and delegated states, and regulation of projects that may lead to “dredge and fill” of waters, requiring permits from the Corps. The remainder of this note offers a brief summary of the last 20 years of judicial reinterpretations and regulatory responses, and discusses the latest revisions.

 

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Tags: EPA, Clear water, Environment, water

US tightens federal standards for heavy-duty vehicles

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Feb 08, 2023

On January 24, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published tighter standards for emissions from “heavy-duty” engines and vehicles, beginning with model year 2027. These new standards form the important first step toward implementation of EPA’s Clean Truck Plan, which has the ultimate goal of zero emissions from motor vehicles. The new standards are more than 80% stronger than current standards, which have been in place more than 20 years. These changes therefore continue the recent trend toward tighter federal emission standards for motor vehicles, including light-duty vehicles (automobiles and light trucks; I discussed the latest rules for light-duty vehicles, covering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for model years 2023-2026 HERE). The remainder of this note discusses the latest heavy-duty vehicle standards.

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Tags: EPA, ghg, CAA