Webinar: Corporate Sustainability and TRI: Exploring P2 Information for Facilities and Parent Companies

Date: Wednesday, February 4, 1:00-2:00 p.m. CST
Register: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/ register/312174544

Do you know which companies are taking steps to reduce their environmental footprint in the U.S.?

For the past two years, TRI’s Pollution Prevention (P2) Tool has been an excellent resource for learning what industrial facilities are doing to reduce toxic chemical pollution. Now, all the facility-level P2 and waste management data reported to EPA’s TRI Program is also available at the parent company level.

Join our next webinar to:

  • learn how the TRI P2 Tool can help you identify P2 successes and visually compare environmental performance at both the facility and corporate level
  • find out how to compare toxic chemical management and greenhouse gas emissions data at the corporate level
  • see what companies are doing to prevent the release of pollutants to the environment
  • get a live demonstration of the newly expanded TRI P2 Tool
  • see the latest industry- and chemical-level P2 trends featured in the 2013 TRI National Analysis report

Predictions and Outlook for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) 2015

Read the full memorandum from Bergson & Campbell PC.

2015 will be a very interesting year. There are two overarching considerations that will make the year more difficult to predict than merely assuming most of this year’s issues will simply be extensions of past issues, with a few new initiatives sprinkled in. First, the new Republican majority in the Senate will change the dynamic between the Executive and Legislative branches. Second, the Obama Administration will begin its lame duck status as it enters the last two years of office. Corollary to the end of the Obama Administration is the jockeying for the 2016 Presidential election that also begins now. The Iowa Presidential caucus is, after all, only a little more than a year away. We can expect the year to be full of Congressional oversight hearings, candidate jockeying, and a focus on various “legacy issues” as those transitioning put effort into finishing or attaining objectives set out earlier in the Administration.

Most of the high profile fireworks, even in the chemical policy space, will not directly involve the regulation of chemicals and pesticides. High profile activities will center on climate change policies and initiatives, and attempts to hinder or foster them. At the same time, for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), we can expect serious consideration of legislative amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and continued attempts to revitalize the toxic chemicals program even without legislation, along with continued emphasis on various pesticide issues, such as pollinator protection, endangered species, worker protection standards, and endocrine testing requirements.

Enhanced EPA Oversight Needed to Address Risks From Declining Clean Air Act Title V Revenues

Download the document.

Weaknesses in the EPA’s oversight of Title V revenues and expenditures jeopardize program implementation and, in turn, compliance with air regulations for many of the nation’s largest sources of air pollution.

No Proof EPA Pollution Prevention Program Works as Claimed: Report

Read the full story from Bloomberg BNA.

The Environmental Protection Agency has no proof that a key pollution prevention program has cut U.S. use of hazardous materials as claimed, the agency’s inspector general said in a report.

The EPA Office of the Inspector General also has a podcast, podcast transcript, and at-a-glance report available on the OIG web site.

Report: EPA Should Use Sustainability Tools, Embrace Collaboration

Read the full story in Environmental Leader. I posted a link to the report, along with a summary, last week. This article provides a good overview. If you’re interested in the original NAP report on sustainability and the EPA, there’s a link here.

The EPA should incorporate sustainability tools in its decision making and collaborate with private-sector companies and non-government organizations, according to a report by the National Research Council.

The report was created at the EPA’s request, and builds on a 2011 report by the National Research Council, Sustainability and the EPA, which recommended that the EPA develop a “sustainability toolbox” of analytic tools that would help the agency implement a more holistic assessment of environmental, economic and social factors in its decision making.

The report provides several case studies to illustrate how the EPA can incorporate sustainability tools into decisions. One case study illustrates how to build consideration of the “three sustainability pillars” — social, environmental and economic concerns — into the criteria used to select a remedy for a site remediation project.

Environmental Regulation: EPA Should Improve Adherence to Guidance for Selected Elements of Regulatory Impact Analyses

Download the document

What GAO Found

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used the seven Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIA) GAO reviewed to inform decision making, and its adherence to relevant Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance varied. According to senior EPA officials, the agency used these RIAs to facilitate communication with management throughout the rulemaking process and communicate information that supported its regulatory decisions to Congress and the public. However, it generally did not use them as the primary basis for final regulatory decisions.

EPA generally adhered to many aspects of OMB’s Circular A-4 guidance for analyzing the economic effects of regulations including, for example, considering regulatory alternatives and analyzing uncertainties underlying its RIAs. However, EPA did not always adhere to other aspects. Specifically, the information EPA included and presented in the RIAs was not always clear. According to OMB guidance, RIAs should communicate information supporting regulatory decisions and enable a third party to understand how the agency arrives at its conclusions. In addition, EPA’s review process does not ensure that the information about selected elements that should appear in the analyses—such as descriptions of baselines and alternatives considered—is transparent or clear, within and across its RIAs. As a result, EPA cannot ensure that its RIAs adhere to OMB’s guidance to provide the public with a clear understanding of its decision making.

In addition to using Circular A-4 (issued in 2003) to analyze the effects of regulations, EPA used more recent guidance developed by an interagency working group co-led by OMB and another White House office in 2010 for valuing carbon dioxide emissions. Applying this guidance while using Circular A-4 to estimate other benefits and costs yielded inconsistencies in some of EPA’s estimates and has raised questions about whether its approach was consistent with Circular A-4. Circular A-4 does not reference the new guidance and the new guidance does not include an overall statement explaining its relationship to Circular A-4. Without increased clarity about the relationship, questions about the agencies’ adherence to OMB guidance will likely persist.

In assessing EPA’s adherence to OMB guidance, GAO identified two other areas in which EPA faced challenges that limited the usefulness of some of its estimates. First, EPA did not monetize certain benefits and costs related to the primary purposes or key impacts of the rules GAO reviewed, such as reducing hazardous air pollutants and water quality effects. EPA officials said resource and data limitations constrained the agency’s ability to monetize these effects. OMB guidance acknowledges that monetizing effects is not always possible. However, without doing so, the public may face challenges understanding the trade-offs associated with regulatory alternatives. Second, EPA estimated effects of its regulations on employment, in part, using a study that, according to EPA officials, represented the best reasonably obtainable data when they conducted their analyses. However, the study was based on data that were more than 20 years old and may not have represented the regulated entities addressed in the RIAs. EPA officials said they are exploring new approaches for analyzing these effects but were uncertain about when such results would be available. Without improvements in its estimates, EPA’s RIAs may be limited in their usefulness for helping decision makers and the public understand these important effects.

Why GAO Did This Study

Federal regulations, especially those addressing health, safety, and the environment, can generate hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits and costs to society annually. Various statutes, executive orders, and OMB guidance direct federal agencies to analyze the benefits and costs of proposed regulations. These analyses—known as RIAs—can also provide affected entities, agencies, Congress, and the public with important information about the potential effects of new regulations.

According to OMB, EPA regulations account for the majority of the estimated benefits and costs of major federal regulations. GAO was asked to review EPA’s RIAs for recent regulations. This report examines how EPA has used RIAs during the rulemaking process and the extent to which EPA adhered to OMB guidance on selected elements of RIAs for recent rules. GAO reviewed RIAs from a nonprobability sample of seven recent air, water, and other environmental regulations, assessed them against relevant OMB guidance, and interviewed agency officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that EPA improve adherence to OMB guidance and enhance the usefulness of its RIAs, and that OMB clarify the application of guidance for estimating the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In commenting on a draft of this report, EPA stated that it generally agreed with GAO’s recommendations. On behalf of OMB, in oral comments OMB staff said that they neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendations but saw some merit in them.

For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gomez at (202) 512-3841 or gomezj@gao.gov.