EPA announces plans for wastewater regulations and studies, including limits for PFAS, new study for nutrients

On January 19, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 (Plan 15), which lays out how the Agency will work to protect the nation’s waterways by following the science and the Clean Water Act to develop technology-based pollution limits and studies on wastewater discharges from industrial sources.

This Plan focuses on evaluating the extent and nature of both nutrient and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) discharges. Plan 15 further advances EPA’s commitment in the PFAS Strategic Roadmap to restrict PFAS discharges from industrial sources through a multi-faceted Effluent Limitations Guidelines program.

Plan 15 announces EPA’s determination that revised effluent limitations guidelines and pretreatment standards (ELGs) are warranted for reducing PFAS in leachate discharges from landfills. The Agency made this decision after concluding a detailed study that was discussed in Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15.

The Agency is also announcing several new and expanded studies as part of today’s action, including:

  • an expansion of the ongoing study of PFAS discharges from textile manufacturers;
  • a new study of publicly owned treatment works (POTW) influents to characterize the PFAS concentrations from industrial dischargers to POTWs and inform implementation of pretreatment programs to address them; and
  • a new study on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to make an informed, reasoned decision on whether to undertake rulemaking to revise the ELGs for CAFOs.

View ELG Program Plan 15


ELGs are national, technology-based regulations developed to control industrial wastewater discharges to surface waters and into POTWs. ELGs are intended to represent the greatest pollutant reductions through technology that are economically achievable for an industry. EPA prepares ELG Program Plans after public review and comment on a preliminary plan, pursuant to Clean Water Act (CWA) section 304(m). ELG plans provide a description of the Agency’s annual review of ELGs and pretreatment standards, consistent with the CWA. Based on these reviews, EPA develops plans to identify any new or existing industrial categories selected for ELG or pretreatment standards rulemakings and to provide a schedule for such rulemakings. In addition, ELG plans present any new or existing categories of industry selected for further review and analysis.

EPA announces availability of $50 million to support states and tribes developing programs for carbon sequestration and groundwater protection

On January 19, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of $50 million in grant funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help states, Tribes and territories develop and implement Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class VI programs. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Class VI programs ensure that groundwater resources are protected while supporting geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.

EPA supports efforts by states, Tribes, and territories to implement existing primacy programs and seek primary enforcement and permitting responsibility (primacy) for Class VI programs. EPA is inviting states, Tribes and territories to submit letters of intent to indicate their interest in this new funding, and interested parties have until March 20, 2023 to submit their letters. After receiving submissions, EPA will determine funding allocations and award the full $50 million in a one-time distribution.

As a condition of receiving funding, applicants to the new Class VI UIC grant program must demonstrate how environmental justice and equity considerations will be incorporated into their Class VI UIC primacy programs. Primacy program commitments may include identifying communities with potential environmental justice concerns, enhancing public involvement, appropriately scoped environmental justice assessments, enhancing transparency throughout the permitting process and minimizing adverse effects associated with permitting actions.


The geologic sequestration of CO2 in UIC Class VI wells is used in carbon capture and storage to prevent CO2 emissions from industrial sources from reaching the atmosphere. The CO2 is injected through specially constructed wells that extend into deep rock formations. These formations must be tested and selected based on geologic characteristics suitable for the safe containment of CO2 for long-term storage. This technology will provide well-paying jobs and promote environmentally responsible industry.

EPA has, under the Safe Drinking Water Act, developed stringent federal requirements for injecting CO2 that protect public health by ensuring injection wells do not contaminate underground sources of drinking water (USDWs). These UIC regulations mandate using a variety of measures to assure that injection activities will not endanger USDWs.

Additional tools, resources and information about Class VI wells are available here.

EPA seeks public comment on National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives for Fiscal Years 2024-2027

U.S. EPA is soliciting public comment and recommendations on the National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (NECIs) for fiscal years 2024-2027 (formerly called National Compliance Initiatives).

EPA proposes to continue four of the six current national initiatives during the FY 2024-2027 cycle and return two of the current national initiatives to the core enforcement and compliance program. In addition, EPA proposes to address environmental justice concerns in all NECIs, and to add two new NECIs on mitigating climate change and addressing PFAS pollution, for the FY 2024-2027 cycle. 

EPA is proposing to continue the following four current NECIs in the FY 2024-2027 cycle:

  1. Creating Cleaner Air for Communities by Reducing Excess Emissions of Harmful Pollutants.
  2. Reducing Risks of Accidental Releases at Industrial and Chemical Facilities.
  3. Reducing Significant Non-Compliance in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program.
  4. Reducing Non-Compliance with Drinking Water Standards at Community Water Systems.

EPA is proposing to return these two current NECIs to the core enforcement and compliance programs:

  1. Reducing Toxic Air Emissions from Hazardous Waste Facilities.
  2. Stopping Aftermarket Defeat Devices for Vehicles and Engines. 

EPA is proposing to add these two new NECIs in the FY 2024-2027 cycle:

  1. Mitigating Climate Change.
  2. Addressing PFAS Contamination.

EPA is also taking comment on whether to add an NECI to address Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) pollution and/or lead contamination. The Agency is also accepting additional suggestions from the public. 

Comments are due by March 13.

‘All-natural’ Simply Orange Juice has high toxic PFAS levels, lawsuit alleges

Read the full story in The Guardian.

A new class-action lawsuit in the US alleges Coca-Cola and Simply Orange Juice deceived customers with claims of an all-natural, healthy product when the juice has been found to be contaminated with toxic PFAS at levels “hundreds of times” above federal advisory limits for drinking water.

Tyson, others, lose Oklahoma lawsuit over poultry pollution

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The world’s largest poultry producer, Tyson Foods, is among nearly a dozen poultry companies that have less than two months to reach agreement with the state of Oklahoma on how to clean a watershed polluted by chicken litter.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell in Tulsa ruled Wednesday that Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, Minnesota-based Cargill Inc. and other companies polluted the Illinois River, caused a public nuisance and trespassed by spreading the litter, or manure, on land in eastern Oklahoma, and that it then leached into the river’s watershed.

The companies and the state have until March 17 to present an agreement on how to remedy the pollution’s effects, which includes low oxygen levels in the river, algae growth and damage to the fish population.

USDA issues rule strengthening organic program

Read the full story at Food Dive.

USDA published a final rule to strengthen oversight on products that can bear the “USDA Organic” seal in an effort to reinforce a system that had been exploited to allow products that were not truly organic to slip through the cracks. The rule takes effect on March 19, 2024.

The 282-page rule requires more certification and training for people and businesses that deal with organic food worldwide, including importers, brokers and traders. It mandates more import certificates for organic products entering the country, gives the National Organic Program more oversight to take action against certifiers, and requires more unannounced inspections with more stringent requirements for organic operations. There are also new documentation requirements for containers that ship organic products, as well as certification and data reporting requirements.

Massive fraud in the USDA Organic certification was first exposed by The Washington Post in 2017, with reports on imported conventionally grown crops that became labeled as organic when they arrived in the United States. This rule is intended to tighten the weaknesses found in the program.

Ozone layer recovery is on track, helping avoid global warming by 0.5°C

Read the full story from the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Association.

The ozone layer is on track to recover within four decades, with the global phaseout of ozone-depleting chemicals already benefitting efforts to mitigate climate change. This is the conclusion of a UN-backed panel of experts, presented today at the American Meteorological Society’s 103rd annual meeting. Examining novel technologies such as geoengineering for the first time, the panel warns of unintended impacts on the ozone layer.

The UN-backed Scientific Assessment Panel to the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances quadrennial assessment report, published every four years, confirms the phase out of nearly 99% of banned ozone-depleting substances has succeeded in safeguarding the ozone layer, leading to notable recovery of the ozone layer in the upper stratosphere and decreased human exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.

Turning plastic waste into a valuable soil additive

Read the full story from the University of California, Riverside.

Chemical and environmental engineers detailed a method to convert plastic waste into a highly porous form of charcoal that has a whopping surface area of about 400 square meters per gram of mass. It could potentially be added to soil to improve water retention and aeration of farmlands.

Solar-powered system converts plastic and greenhouse gases into sustainable fuels

Read the full story from the University of Cambridge.

Researchers have developed a system that can transform plastic waste and greenhouse gases into sustainable fuels and other valuable products — using just the energy from the Sun.

Chemical researchers discover catalyst to make renewable paints, coatings, and diapers

Read the full story from the University of Minnesota.

Researchers have invented a groundbreaking new catalyst technology that converts renewable materials like trees and corn to the key chemicals, acrylic acid, and acrylates used in paints, coatings, and superabsorbent polymers.