The US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recently finalized its long-anticipated National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (“NECIs”) for fiscal years 2024 through 2027, naming six “priority areas” on which EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”) will focus its enforcement efforts and direct additional resources. In his first significant action since being confirmed by the Senate on July 20, 2023, OECA Assistant Administrator David Uhlmann issued a memorandum on August 17, 2023 to the EPA Regional Administrators, advising of the six NECIs. He stated that over the next four years EPA will “address the most significant public health and environmental challenges, protect vulnerable and overburdened communities, and promote greater compliance with our environmental laws.”Continue Reading EPA Announces Its Final National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives for FY2024-2027
On August 14, EPA published its proposed modifications to regulations establishing the requirements for a state or tribe to assume the Clean Water Act (CWA) section 404 permit program, including necessary state program elements, EPA responsibilities (e.g., approval and oversight of assumed programs), and requirements for review, modification, and withdrawal of state programs. 88 Fed. Reg. 55,276 (Aug. 14, 2023). The proposal provides helpful clarifications but does not resolve a number of key issues faced by states considering assumption and by permittees in those States. Continue Reading EPA Proposes to Modify Regulations to Facilitate State Assumption of CWA Section 404 Permitting
In June 2023, federal agencies released their “Spring 2023” Regulatory Agendas that provide an outlook for numerous upcoming regulatory actions on chemicals which could have significant implications for the regulated community. Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP’s regulatory team have provided analyses of these upcoming regulatory actions:
- EPA’s Spring 2023 Unified Regulatory Agenda—Upcoming PFAS-Related Actions
- EPA’s Spring 2023 Regulatory Agenda—Upcoming TSCA Actions
On May 3, 2023, EPA released its proposed risk management rule under Section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to impose restrictions on the manufacture, import, processing, distribution, and use of methylene chloride, a widely-used solvent in a variety of consumer and commercial applications. This is the first risk management rule proposed by EPA since it issued revised risk determinations last year based on its new “whole chemical approach” and policy for assuming that personal protective equipment (PPE) is not used by workers. It also reflects a substantial expansion of the regulatory prohibitions applicable to a chemical that was already subject to TSCA risk management restrictions, albeit more limited ones, under EPA’s prior framework for risk management actions.
EPA is proposing to prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer use; prohibit most industrial and commercial uses of methylene chloride; require a workplace chemical protection program (WCPP) for certain identified conditions of use that are allowed to continue; and provide certain time-limited, critical use exemptions under Section 6(g) of TSCA for uses of methylene chloride that would otherwise significantly disrupt national security and critical infrastructure. Stakeholders have until July 3, 2023 to comment on the proposed rule.Continue Reading EPA Releases Proposed Rule under TSCA to Ban or Restrict Most Uses of Methylene Chloride
On April 27, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Proposed Rule to grant Louisiana primacy to administer and enforce the Class VI Underground Injection Control (UIC) program within its borders. EPA approval of Louisiana’s primacy application would authorize the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) to issue UIC permits for Class VI geologic carbon sequestration facilities and undertake compliance enforcement for such facilities located within the state. EPA has determined that Louisiana’s application meets the necessary requirements for approval and is soliciting public comments on the proposal. One of the major sticking points in EPA’s approval of Louisiana’s program has been the approach to incorporating environmental justice (EJ) into the Class VI permit process. LDNR has agreed to implement a number of EJ-focused elements into the permitting process, including robust EJ analysis and public participation.Continue Reading EPA Proposes to Give Louisiana Authority for CO2 Injection Permits Under Condition that State Permit Process Includes Robust Environmental Justice Analysis and Outreach
On March 29 the US House of Representatives adopted by voice vote an amendment offered by Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and August Pfluger (R-TX) to speed up Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review of state applications for primacy to run the Class VI Underground Injection Control (UIC) program. The amendment was included in H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, the high-profile energy and permitting reform bill the House approved on March 30.
The UIC program is designed to prevent endangerment of underground sources of drinking water from subsurface injections. The Class VI program specifically regulates the geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide, which is considered to be essential for the world to meet international emission reduction targets. Continue Reading House of Representatives Approves Class VI Primacy Amendment
President Biden issued his second veto late last week. The President’s second veto protects a U.S. EPA rule that went into effect on March 20, 2023. That rule redefines “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), and at a high conceptual level, returns the Agency’s interpretation of WOTUS to that of the Obama administration, an interpretation that was revoked and replaced by the Trump administration.
This matter has been hotly contested in the federal courts. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to issue a ruling within the next several weeks on Sackett v. EPA, a decision which could substantially revise and narrow the Agency’s definition of “waters of the United States.” The Court’s decision here could send the Biden administration’s revised definition of WOTUS back to EPA for changes needed in-line with the Court’s decision, if and when issued.Continue Reading President Biden’s Second Veto Is on Congress’ Disapproval of EPA’s Revised Definition of WOTUS
On March 29, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register its long-awaited proposed rule to restrict certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). This action is part of EPA’s whole-of-agency approach in its PFAS Strategic Roadmap and is expected to directly affect 66,000 public water systems across the country. Comments on the proposal are due on May 30, 2023. EPA will also hold a public hearing on May 4, 2023 to receive stakeholder input on this important rulemaking.Continue Reading EPA Proposes National Primary Drinking Water Regulation to Set Stringent Limits on PFAS in Drinking Water, Including Four Newly Targeted Substances
In late February 2023, EPA released for public comment its Draft Proposed Principles of Cumulative Risk Assessment under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“Draft Principles”), which proposes a set of principles for evaluating cumulative risks for chemicals undergoing risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”). In conjunction with the Draft Principles, EPA also released its “Draft Proposed Approach for Cumulative Risk Assessment of High-Priority Phthalates and a Manufacturer Requested Phthalate Under the Toxic Substances Control Act,” (“Draft Proposed Phthalates Cumulative Risk Approach”), an approach for applying these Draft Principles to the evaluation of cumulative risks posed by certain phthalates undergoing TSCA risk evaluations. EPA referred to these documents as the “first steps” towards the Agency conducting cumulative risk assessments under TSCA.Continue Reading EPA Proposes A Cumulative Risk Approach for Chemical Risk Assessment under TSCA
In February 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) quietly released a Compliance Advisory “What You Need to Know about Producing, Distributing, or Selling Pesticide Devices.” The advisory follows on the heels of similar advisories and provides information to the regulated community about requirements for pesticide devices under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in order to promote compliance. EPA issued this advisory in response to a “significant increase” in the number of pesticide devices being sold or distributed in the US in which EPA has found “substantial non-compliance” with FIFRA requirements. EPA has also experienced a high volume of inquiries from companies and other regulators seeking clarification about pesticide device requirements. The advisory suggests that EPA remains poised to continue taking enforcement actions against companies that import, distribute or sell pesticide devices that do not comply with FIFRA’s requirements.Continue Reading EPA Releases Another Compliance Advisory on Pesticide Devices Due to “Substantial Non-Compliance” with FIFRA Requirements