Category: Regulation

Lax pesticide policies are putting wildlife health at risk, experts warn

Read the full story in Audubon Magazine.

Scientists and advocates say neonicotinoids—shown to harm bees, birds, and other wildlife—need tougher regulation. The U.S. EPA has a key window to take action in the next year.

Clean Water Act: EPA Needs to Better Assess and Disclose Quality of Compliance and Enforcement Data

Download the document.

What GAO Found

Since 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has modified one of its three national initiatives emphasizing compliance with the Clean Water Act and has discontinued two others (see fig.). The goal of the modified initiative is to reduce significant noncompliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits by half by the end of fiscal year 2022. Such permits set limits on discharges of wastewater from point sources, such as a pipe from an industrial facility. This goal supports EPA’s strategic objective to increase compliance with environmental laws in its strategic plan for fiscal years 2018-2022. EPA discontinued its initiatives focused on animal waste pollution and raw sewage and stormwater runoff, returning these areas to the core enforcement program in 2018 and 2019, respectively. As a result, these areas no longer receive the heightened attention and focused resources of the national initiatives, but the agency still pursues enforcement actions when needed.

Changes in EPA's Clean Water Act National Initiatives
Changes in EPA’s Clean Water Act National Initiatives

EPA posts data that states report on their NPDES compliance and enforcement activities to its website, but the data are not reliable for identifying changes in the number of activities states conducted since 2015. EPA’s most recent assessment of states’ data showed that two of 17 states met expectations for the accuracy and completeness of the data recorded in the agency’s national database. EPA is working with states to improve their data, and it includes on its website disclosures by some states about problems and limitations with their data. However, the agency has not ensured that all states’ disclosures are consolidated, complete, and updated. Until it does so, potential users of the data may not fully understand the data or the data’s limitations.

EPA developed a measure to track progress toward its goal for reducing the rate of significant noncompliance by NPDES facilities with individual permits by the end of fiscal year 2022. While the measure tracks changes in the number of facilities in significant noncompliance, the results of the measure are unclear because data EPA needs to track compliance are incomplete and contain inaccuracies. According to EPA, about 70 percent of NDPES facilities have sufficiently complete data in the national database for EPA to track compliance. EPA is working with states to improve data quality, but it does not have a plan to assess the overall accuracy of the data. Until it does so, EPA cannot be certain what its measure is showing and if EPA is making progress toward its goal.

Why GAO Did This Study

EPA partners with states to oversee compliance with and enforcement of the Clean Water Act. In fiscal year 2020, there were roughly 335,000 facilities with active NPDES permits, which are used to regulate wastewater discharges under the act. In 2015, EPA began requiring states and facilities to electronically report data on their NPDES activities. EPA estimated that in 2018, nearly 11,000 facilities significantly exceeded their permit limits and illegally discharged pollutants into nearby waters, which may pose serious threats to human health and the environment.

GAO was asked to review EPA’s enforcement of the Clean Water Act. This report examines (1) changes since 2015 in EPA’s national initiatives for ensuring compliance with the act, (2) changes in NPDES compliance and enforcement activities since 2015, and (3) the extent to which EPA is measuring progress toward compliance with the NPDES program. GAO reviewed and analyzed EPA documents and data on NPDES compliance and enforcement activities. GAO also interviewed officials from eight states, selected in part by EPA region, to learn about their NPDES compliance and enforcement activities and data reporting.

A Proof-of-Concept Case Study Integrating Publicly Available Information to Screen Candidates for Chemical Prioritization under TSCA

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Regulatory agencies world-wide are looking to efficiently integrate information on chemical substances in order to inform priorities for decisions and data requests. This document updates the long-term strategy described in the Working Approach and presents the Public Information Curation and Synthesis (PICS) approach that integrates publicly-available hazard, exposure, persistence, and bioaccumulation information for chemical substances. This approach is not designed to replace the prioritization process described in TSCA but aims to increase efficiency and focus expert review on substances that may have a greater potential for selection as a high- or low-priority candidate.

Full document citation: U.S. EPA. A Proof-of-Concept Case Study Integrating Publicly Available Information to Screen Candidates for Chemical Prioritization under TSCA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-21-106, 2021.

Biden administration to curb toxic wastewater from coal plants with new rule

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday it will set stricter requirements for how coal-fired power plants dispose of wastewater full of arsenic, lead and mercury — a major source of toxic water pollution for rivers and streams near electric generators across the country, from Wyoming to Pennsylvania.

In a new rulemaking process kicked off Monday, President Biden’s team is aiming to undo one of the Trump administration’s major regulatory rollbacks. Last year, the Trump EPA watered down rules forcing many coal plants to treat wastewater with modern filtration methods and other technology before it reached waterways that provide drinking water for thousands of Americans.

Europe unveils plan to shift from fossil fuels, setting up potential trade spats

Read the full story in the New York Times.

The proposal would impose tariffs on some imports from countries with looser environmental rules. It would also mean the end of sales in the European Union of new gas- and diesel-powered cars in just 14 years.

EPA proposes recordkeeping requirements for PFAS, seeks comment

Read the full story from the American Coatings Association.

On June 28, the U.S. Environmental Protection agency posted its proposed Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EPA will use submitted information to inform assessments of new and existing chemicals, drinking water restrictions and other regulatory initiatives related to PFAS.

EPA will accept comments through Aug. 27, 2021. EPA also recommends filing comments about data collection requirements by July 28, 2021, to assure consideration by the Office of Management and Budget. EPA is proposing to require persons that manufacture (including import) or have manufactured these chemical substances in any year since Jan. 1, 2011, to electronically report information regarding PFAS uses, production volumes, disposal, exposures, and hazards. Reportable information is any responsive information that is known to or reasonably ascertainable by the company. Companies would also be required to make reasonable estimates of measurements, monitoring or other data when not available.

Waste not? Some states are sending less food to landfills

Read the full story at Stateline.

At least eight states, all in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic except California, have laws requiring some reprocessing of food waste, to keep it out of landfills and cut down on greenhouse gases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Webinar: Biosolids – Challenges and opportunities for the 21st century

Sep 30, 2021 noon-1pm
Register here.

As climate change mitigation, improved soil health, and a circular economy become key policy drivers the benefits of biosolids and their role in meeting policy objectives are gaining recognition. Obstacles remain however which must be met directly. This presentation will present an update on key legislation in California and how it impacts biosolids use there. Key US federal and European Union updates on biosolids issues will also be provided.

About the speaker

Greg serves as both the technical and programmatic contact for CASA members and conduit for emerging issues on the state and federal levels on all biosolids, renewable energy, recycled water, and related issues. He works closely with local, state and federal authorities as well as the private sector on biosolids management, climate change mitigation, energy optimization, and all management options. He is the lead conduit of information for emerging technologies and markets for biosolids management and renewable energy opportunities.

Prior to joining CASA, Greg served as the state biosolids coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. He represented all states in the nation, by their election, to USEPA on all biosolids issues. He served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee which evaluated federal biosolids regulations and produced the 2002 report: Biosolids Applied to Land: Advancing Standards and Practices.

Prior to earning his engineering degree, Greg drove an 18 wheel tractor-tanker for 10 years, delivering liquid biosolids to agricultural fields for land application through direct injection. This affords him a holistic view of all sides of the biosolids program.

This seminar is a certified green event by the University of Illinois’ Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment.

DeWine signs bill giving commissioners ‘kill switch’ on wind, solar projects

Read the full story at the Ohio Capital Journal.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation Monday giving county commissioners new powers to kill wind or solar projects early in their development.

No such power exists for local officials for coal mines or oil and gas wells, which are regulated at the state level.

If commissioners opt against scuttling a project entirely, Senate Bill 52 also allows them to block wind and solar developments in all or part of unincorporated areas in the county. However, citizens would have the right to canvass signatures and put the restricted development area resolution up for a popular vote.

It also gives locals two votes on projects within their jurisdiction atop the seven preexisting votes among Power Siting Board members.

PFAS legislative overhaul? American Chemical Society warns US chemical regulations require revamp to prevent health risks

Read the full story at Packaging Insights.

A new paper published by the American Chemical Society is calling for “meaningful action” on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to attenuate the “systematic failures” of US chemical regulation.

According to the environmental researchers, legislative strides should go beyond legacy contamination clean-up and also reduce current production and uses to limit future exposures.

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