Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

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

EPA expands Toxics Release Inventory chemical list, and proposes lower reporting thresholds for PFAS chemicals

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jan 09, 2023

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken two actions to expand chemical release reporting under its Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program. 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). EPA has finalized its previously-proposed addition of 12 chemicals, and separately has proposed to tighten existing requirements for two more. (I’ve discussed TRI several times, including HERE. The rest of this note discusses these changes.

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Tags: EPA, chemical safety, Toxic, Toxics Release

EPA progress reducing Clean Water Act significant non-compliance

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Dec 08, 2022

On November 22, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the success of its ongoing National Compliance Initiative for “Reducing Significant Non-Compliance (SNC) with NPDES Permits,” addressing high levels of non-compliance with individual permits to discharge water pollutants under the Clean Water Act’s (CWA’s) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination system (NPDES). EPA started the Initiative in fiscal year (FY) 2018, in cooperation with delegated state water quality agencies, after compiling and evaluating permit holders’ data showing significant non-compliance by over 20% of the 46,000 permitted facilities around the country. The Initiative’s goal has been to cut non-compliance in half by the end of FY 2022. EPA’s November 22 report claims that this goal has been exceeded, with significant non-compliance rates down to 9%.

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Tags: EPA, clean water, CWA, Clear water, NPDES, water pollutants, water, SNC

EPA-UPS settlement provides reminder to get hazardous waste compliance details right

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Oct 28, 2022

On October 19, 2022 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United Parcel Service (UPS) settled a massive enforcement case covering violations of hazardous waste management requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at 1,160 UPS facilities across forty-five (45) states and the territory of Puerto Rico. Most of the identified violations resulted from UPS’ misclassification of the quantities of hazardous waste generated at its facilities, and resulting failures to meet the additional requirements actually applicable at the mis-classified facilities. The national prosecution followed an investigation and subsequent Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) in EPA’s Region 6 (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and 66 Tribal Nations), which developed after enforcement at a single UPS site in Arkansas. The new nationwide settlement also appears in a CAFO, in which UPS agrees to pay more than $5 million in fines and to undertake enhanced compliance programs. The settlement is a good reminder to all organizations generating hazardous waste, that failures to meet RCRA-related administrative requirements can create enforcement liability even if wastes are managed responsibly.

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Tags: EHS, EPA, Hazardous Waste

EPA proposes Re-Re-Revisions to Accidental Release Prevention Rules

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Sep 12, 2022

No, the title is not a stutter; I’ve written it that way to emphasize that the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to revise its Accidental Release Prevention (ARP) program rules under the Clean Air Act (CAA) represents only the latest step in nearly-decade-long changes to these requirements across the last three Presidential administrations. ARP was enacted after the 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments, and its often known by its core requirement that targeted facilities prepare Risk Management Programs (RMPs) to prevent and respond to potential catastrophic releases of chemicals.

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Tags: EPA, chemical safety, Environment, Toxics Release

Circuit Court sends Roundup pesticide review back to EPA for another try

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jul 11, 2022

On June 17, the Ninth Circuit (federal) Court of Appeals issued an important ruling on national pesticide regulation, directed at the chemical glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in the ubiquitous weedkiller Roundup (originally marketed by Monsanto, which was bought by Bayer in 2018). The order remands to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the agency’s determination that glyphosate does not pose “any unreasonable risk to man or the environment,” citing evidence that such risks may indeed be present. The case, Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA, interprets and applies the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This decision is the latest step in controversies dating to 2009, when EPA began its latest FIFRA hazard review and reregistration determination for glyphosate.

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Tags: EPA, FIFRA, pesticides

Department of Justice Reviving Use of Supplemental Environmental Project Agreements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jun 13, 2022

On May 12, 2022, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) published an interim final rule that revokes a Trump-era prohibition against its attorneys’ use of payments to third parties, including via “supplemental environmental projects (SEPs)”, in settlements with violators of federal environmental laws. (I discussed Trump Administration policies several times, most recently HERE). In these cases, DOJ acts as the attorney for the agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that enforce laws and regulations allegedly violated. This rule change would codify policy changes presented in a memorandum from Attorney General Merrick Garland to US attorneys. This change is designed to restore flexibility to DOJ’s US attorneys to trade penalty dollars for more rapid commitments by wrongdoers to undertake actions to offset harms caused by their violations.

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Tags: EPA, DOJ, SEP, Environment, Climate

EPA to decide whether discarded PVC is hazardous waste

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, May 30, 2022

asbestos-new

On May 4, 2022, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published notice of a proposed consent decree in litigation brought by the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). EPA proposes to issue a decision responding to a petition filed by CBD in 2014, about whether to list discarded polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). CBD filed the suit early in 2021, after EPA had taken no action on its petition for seven years, claiming that the agency’s inaction violated a duty to act. EPA is now ready to commit to issue a proposed decision no later than January 20, 2023, and a final decision by April 12, 2024.


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Tags: EPA, Environment, plastics, PVC