July 02, 2018
EPA has launched the new e-Manifest system nationwide on June 30, 2018. Beginning immediately, you will have the option to create manifests electronically, or you will be able to continue to use paper manifests. A slightly modified 5-part paper manifest was also introduced for use beginning on June 30.
The e-Manifest system allows for three types of hazardous waste manifest creation options:
- Paper (generator, transporter, and receiving facility all sign on 5-part paper manifest)
- Hybrid (starts as 5-part paper manifest signed by the generator and then is signed electronically by the transporter and receiving facility)
- Electronic (created in e-Manifest and electronically signed by all entities listed on the manifest)
If you have not already done so, you can register for e-Manifests with your site’s existing EPA ID number at: https://www.epa.gov/e-manifest
. Generators remain responsible for the content of the manifest, however they can authorize others, such as brokers, waste transporters, or consultants to enter the data and sign the manifest on their behalf. EPA has encouraged each generator to assign two Site Managers, who could then authorize other users to view, create, and/or sign manifests electronically.
Starting now, all manifests, whether paper or electronic, will be submitted by the receiving facility to EPA via the Agency’s e-Manifest system. There will be several ways to submit manifests to EPA, ranging from mailing conventional paper to full electronic delivery. Receiving facilities will pay a fee that varies based on how the manifest is submitted.
The new manifest must be used for:
- RCRA federal hazardous waste
- Regulated PCB waste shipped on a manifest
- State-regulated hazardous waste (if a manifest is required by origination or destination state)
- Very Small Quantity Generator waste (if, as noted below, a manifest is required by the state)
- Imported hazardous waste
Unless required by your state, the e-Manifest is not required for wastes that did not require hazardous waste manifesting in the past, such as:
- Very Small Quantity Generators (formerly Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators)
- Used Oil
- Universal Waste
- Medical Waste
- Non-hazardous Waste
You will be able to use the new e-manifest system to meet EPA’s 3-year manifest recordkeeping requirements. However, if your site does not create an e-Manifest account, you will be unable to view manifests in EPA’s e-manifest system and therefore you should make arrangements with the receiving waste treatment, storage, disposal, or recycling facilities to obtain paper copies of completed manifests so that you can meet your requirement to keep manifest copies from the destination facility for at least three years.
EPA has indicated that the Agency is evaluating whether enhanced security measures are needed for data regarding certain acute hazardous wastes. In the interim, EPA will be working directly with impacted receiving facilities on specific procedures related to those manifests. EPA recently also indicated that it would grant receiving facilities extra time to submit paper manifests in the initial months after system launch to further support industry implementation. Facilities that receive manifested waste between June 30, 2018 and September 1, 2018 will now have until September 30, 2018 to send those paper manifests to EPA. Many states will no longer require hazardous waste generators to mail copies of the new paper (or e-manifest) to the state. Check with your state environmental agency to determine if this applies to you.
Hazardous Waste Training
Annual hazardous waste training is required for anyone who generates, accumulates, stores, transports, or treats hazardous waste. Learn how to manage your hazardous waste in accordance with the latest state and federal regulations. Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training
is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts. If you plan to also attend DOT hazardous materials training
, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on a new Amazon Fire HD10 tablet.
New TSCA Reporting Requirements for Mercury
As required under section 8(b)(10)(D) of the Toxic Substances Control Act, EPA published a final rule
that establishes reporting requirements to assist in EPA's preparation of an “inventory of mercury supply, use, and trade in the United States.”
The requirements apply to anyone who manufactures (including imports) mercury or mercury-added (including mercury compound) products, or otherwise intentionally uses mercury in a manufacturing process. Based on the inventory EPA is required to "identify any manufacturing processes or products that intentionally add mercury; and . . . recommend actions, including proposed revisions of Federal law or regulations, to achieve further reductions in mercury use.'' At this time, EPA is not making these identifications or recommendations.
This final rule requires reporting from any person who manufactures (including imports) mercury or mercury-added products, or otherwise intentionally uses mercury in a manufacturing process.
The rule applies to facilities that manufacture (including import) mercury in amounts greater than or equal to 2,500 lb/year for elemental mercury or 25,000 lb/year for mercury compounds. Information that must be reported includes the amounts of mercury: stored, distributed in commerce, manufactured, imported, exported, in manufactured (other than imported) products, in imported products, in exported products, and intentionally used in a manufacturing process.
This final rule will go into effect on August 27, 2018.
NY to Adopt First Major Update to State's Environmental Quality Review Regulations in 20 Years
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced that DEC has adopted a rulemaking package that will make the first major update to State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) regulations in more than two decades, preserving the integrity of the regulations and streamlining the environmental review process.
Commissioner Seggos said, "DEC is always looking for ways to make our agency more efficient and effective for the nearly 20 million New Yorkers that depend on us to protect our natural resources. DEC's updates to SEQR will streamline the environmental review process and encourage sustainable development and renewable energy development without sacrificing SEQR's integrity or the environmental protections it affords."
The updates to SEQR will take effect on January 1, 2019 and will expand the number of actions not subject to further review, known as Type II actions, modify thresholds for actions deemed more likely to require the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS), and require scoping of an EIS. Additional highlights regarding content of a draft EIS, are the consideration of measures to avoid or reduce an action's impacts on climate change-induced conditions such as sea level rise and flooding, as well as enhancements to make acceptance procedures for EIS more consistent. Examples of Type II actions to be added include:
- Green infrastructure upgrades or retrofits
- Installation of solar arrays on closed landfills, cleaned-up brownfield sites,
- Wastewater treatment facilities, sites zoned for industrial use, or solar canopies on residential and commercial parking facilities
- Installation of solar arrays on an existing structure not listed on the National or State Register of Historic Places
- Reuse of a residential or commercial structure, or structure containing mixed residential and commercial uses
- Acquisition and dedication of parkland
- Land transfers in connection with one, two or three family housing
- Construction and operation of certain anaerobic digesters at operating publicly owned landfills.
DEC's updates to SEQR were subject to one of the most extensive stakeholder outreach campaigns in agency history and were designed to address concerns shared by a wide range of stakeholders while still maintaining SEQR's purpose of protecting the public and the environment. In addition to a full public scoping process for the draft EIS, DEC held 11 stakeholder meetings with representatives from the business community, environmental groups, and local governments over two years. DEC received more than 280 comments from the public after the proposed regulations were released in 2017.
The final rules will be available on DEC's website and noticed in both the Environmental Notice Bulletin and the State Register on July 18. DEC expects to release an updated SEQR Handbook and SEQR workbooks later this year to reflect the regulatory changes that take effect on January 1, 2019. In addition, DEC will provide training for lead agencies to ensure they understand the changes to the SEQR process.
Oil and Gas Wastewater on the Road Could Mean Health and Environment Woes
A truck kicking up dust as it speeds down a dirt road is a typical image in country music videos. But this dust from unpaved roads is also an environmental and health hazard. To prevent dust clouds, some states treat dirt motorways with oil and gas wastewater. Now one group reports in Environmental Science & Technology
that this wastewater contains harmful pollutants that have the potential to do more harm than good.
According to the DOT, 34% of roads in the U.S. are unpaved. These unpaved roads contribute to almost half of the annual airborne particulate matter emissions -- such as dust, dirt and soot -- in the U.S., potentially causing respiratory and cardiovascular issues. In an attempt to prevent these health effects, road managers spread products on these roadways to suppress dust. Almost 200 different dust suppressants, mostly chloride salts or salt brine products that form a coating or help particles aggregate, are available. But these suppressants can be too costly in regions where budgets are tight, so many municipalities turn to a free alternative: salty oil and gas (O&G) wastewater produced from well operations. While O&G wastewater is good for a township’s bottom line, there are concerns about contaminants leaching from it into the environment. So William D. Burgos and colleagues wanted to evaluate the potential environmental and human health impacts of this practice.
The spreading of O&G wastewater on roads is permitted in at least 13 states, with significant spreading activity occurring in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The team studied O&G wastewater spread on roads and found them to contain salt, radioactivity and organic contaminant concentrations above their respective drinking water standards. These substances can be harmful to humans and aquatic life. In lab simulations, nearly all of the metals from these wastewaters leached out after simulated rain events, but metals such as radium – which is radioactive and a known carcinogen -- and lead were partially retained on roadways. The researchers speculate that the radium that did leach could end up in nearby bodies of water. The group proposes that establishing wastewater standards and treatment guidelines for O&G wastewaters spread on roads could help reduce the potential environmental impacts of this practice.
DOT Electronic Incident Reporting System Not Working
Under 49 CFR 171.16
, a detailed incident report must be made in writing or online via DOT’s Hazardous Materials Incident Communication system (HAZMATICS) within 30 days of discovery of a hazardous material transportation incident.
As of this past weekend, HAZMATICS was offline and the website indicates
that it will remain unavailable until further notice.
The website encourages incident filers to submit incident reports using DOT form 5800.1F
until HAZMATICS is back online. Note that there is no change in the requirement to submit an immediate report by phone to the National Response Center within 12 hours of discovery of certain transportation-related reportable incidents
Lab Analyst Convicted, Sentenced for Falsifying Drinking Water Data
Ryan Guisinger, a former Lancaster City, OH drinking water plant employee, was sentenced last week in Fairfield County Common Pleas Court for a felony conviction of falsifying data. Guisinger’s crimes date back to 2015 and 2016 when the lab analyst was caught entering false data rather than processing and recording actual treatment analysis.
“I take these crimes very seriously. This individual potentially put public health and safety at risk because he didn’t do the actual analysis,” Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler said. “It is critical that those who are entrusted with ensuring the safety of our drinking water do so with integrity and honesty. I thank Ohio EPA’s Special Investigations Unit staff and our partners at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation who brought this man to justice.”
Guisinger pleaded guilty in Fairfield County Common Pleas Court to one count of violating Safe Drinking Water Requirements under R.C. 6109.31(B), an unclassified felony. Judge Trimmer sentenced him to 2 years community control (with a 12-month reserve prison sentence), 20 days community service, $1,600 in restitution to Ohio BCI for investigative costs, a fine of $2,450 (suspended), and court costs.
The case was handled by attorneys in the Ohio Attorney General’s Environmental Enforcement Section who were appointed as special prosecutors by the Fairfield County Prosecutor.
Air Quality Fee Changes Proposed for Facilities in Central and Eastern Washington
The Washington Department of Ecology has proposed changes
to its fees for the air quality registration program. The air quality registration program tracks emissions and the effectiveness of pollution controls at 530 facilities in central and eastern Washington. It covers businesses such as landfills, data centers, cattle feedlots, cement plants, wastewater treatment plants, rock crushers and food processing facilities.
Today, fees account for about 50% of the costs to run the program, which by state law is intended to be fully fee supported. In 2017, the cost of running the program was $518,000, while fees brought in only $285,000.
Under the proposed changes to the fee structure and schedule, Ecology would recover about 95% of the total cost of the registration program by 2021. Fees have not increased for six years and not all of the covered facilities pay into the program. Ecology is proposing to adjust the fee structure so that all covered facilities are charged, the fees are more equitably assigned, and to more fully fund the program.
The proposal would only affect facilities in the 17 central and eastern Washington counties under Ecology’s jurisdiction. Air quality management and permits for Yakima, Benton and Spokane counties are under the jurisdiction of their local air agencies
. Those agencies have similar registration fee programs.
The registration program is an important building block for Ecology’s air quality work in these areas, providing an inventory of emissions and sources. The program helps the agency to evaluate the effectiveness of air pollution controls, and verify that these facilities are complying with air quality requirements. Air quality registration fee schedules are tiered based on a facility’s annual emissions.
To update the fee structure and schedule, Ecology has proposed to amend two rules:
Building a Chemical Weapons Detector with Legos®
Nerve agents are scary stuff. They are among the deadliest substances on earth, yet can be odorless, tasteless and difficult to detect. But researchers now report in ACS Central Science
that they have adapted building materials normally associated with children’s toys and a cell phone to help sense these compounds. The new method can sensitively detect these poisons, quantify the amount and distinguish between different classes present at contaminated sites.
Because nerve agents shut off enzymes that control the body’s nervous system function, death comes quickly — in minutes or even seconds. Thus, it’s important to detect these compounds quickly so that swift action can be taken. But in addition to taking too long, current methods require expensive instruments and are poorly suited for field use. Complicating matters, there are two main categories of nerve agents, requiring different decontamination protocols. Existing tools are not effective in differentiating between these classes, which is important because one is more toxic and less volatile than the other, leading to a greater potential for mass harm. Eric Anslyn, Edward M. Marcotte, and colleagues sought to develop an instrumental set-up and method that addressed these issues and would be simple to use.
The researchers developed a cascade of reactions that amplify an optical signal that results from a byproduct of a decomposition reaction of the nerve agents. The resulting mixtures change their color and intensity of emission relative to the amount of chemical weapon present. This visual change of emission provides a sensitive test that can be read using common, inexpensive household and laboratory items. The simple design features a LEGO®
box with a template to guide a smartphone’s placement on a stage, where the phone acts as the instrument’s camera. The only other necessary components are a UV/visible lamp and a standard 96-well test plate. Free software helps analyze the resulting image. To encourage wide adoption of their technology, the researchers uploaded their analytic code, image guides, and a demonstration video to GitHub
States Sue EPA Over Rollback of Key Climate Protection Regulation
New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood is leading a coalition of 11 Attorneys General, that filed suit
against the EPA for seeking to roll back key climate protection regulations adopted in 2015. Specifically, the coalition charges that EPA violated the federal Clean Air Act when it effectively rescinds regulations prohibiting the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – which are extremely potent climate change pollutants – through “guidance,” rather than a public rulemaking process, as required by the law.
Lifting limits on the use of HFCs will damage efforts to combat climate change. When it finalized its HFC rule in 2015, EPA estimated that the rule would avoid 26 to 31 million metric tons of greenhouse gases annually by 2020. A reduction of 30 million metric tons is approximately equivalent to 6.4 million passenger vehicles driven for one year, or the annual energy use for 3.2 million homes.
“The Trump EPA is seeking to gut critical climate protection rules through the backdoor – once again endangering New Yorkers while thumbing their nose at the law,” Attorney General Underwood said. “My office will continue to fight back against the Trump Administration’s brazen disregard for rule of law, and the health, safety, and welfare of New Yorkers.”
Joining Attorney General Underwood in the lawsuit are the Attorneys General of California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Since 1990, the Clean Air Act has required EPA to phase out chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which destroy the earth’s ozone layer. The law included a “Safe Alternatives Policy” to ensure that when manufacturers replaced CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances in their products, their replacements would “reduce overall risks to human health and the environment.” Pursuant to this provision of the law, in 2015, EPA finalized a rule that prohibited or limited the use of HFCs as replacements for ozone-depleting substances due to their potency as climate change pollutants.
EPA’s 2015 rule is a vital to addressing climate change. HFCs are thousands of times more potent for global warming than carbon dioxide and are the fastest growing source of emissions in the United States and globally. Controlling HFCs are also vital to New York’s goal of reducing climate change pollution emissions 80 percent by 2050, as by 2050 the chemicals will account for 25 percent of the state’s emissions.
Two manufacturers of HFCs subsequently sued EPA over the 2015 rule. In deciding that suit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously affirmed EPA’s legal authority to designate HFCs as prohibited replacements for ozone-depleting substances. However, in a split decision, the court also ruled that the Agency lacked authority to require a manufacturer that has already replaced an ozone-depleting substance with HFCs to switch to a safer alternative. The court partially vacated the rule -- solely with respect to this requirement – and remanded it back to EPA.
In April of this year, EPA Administrator Pruitt issued a document, styled as “guidance,” that effectively rescinds the 2015 rule in its entirety. That guidance, issued without public notice and opportunity for comment, states that the Agency is voiding the HFC limits adopted in the 2015 rule “in their entirety” – including those affirmed by the D.C. Circuit court.
EPA’s decision to void the rule completely will likely result in a significant increase in HFC emissions. For example, EPA estimated in 2016 that there are nearly 200,000 commercial refrigeration units nationwide that use ozone-depleting substances. Because of EPA’s new guidance, those units are no longer prohibited from switching to HFCs – despite the court’s explicit ruling that this aspect of the 2015 rule was lawful. EPA has pledged to undertake a rulemaking to address the court’s decision, but has not provided any timetable for doing so.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and charges that Administrator Pruitt’s use of guidance to rescind the 2015 rule violates the Clean Air Act. Under the Act, the guidance is a substantive rule that required public notice and comment prior to being finalized.
This matter is being handled for Attorney General Underwood by Senior Counsel for Air Pollution and Climate Change Litigation Michael J. Myers, Affirmative Section Chief Morgan A. Costello, Assistant Attorney General Joshua M. Tallent, and Staff Scientist Charles Silver. The Environmental Protection Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Matthew Colangelo.
Upcoming Revisions to Hawaii’s Hazardous Waste Regulations
EPA has proposed
to authorize Hawaii’s request to revise the State’s hazardous waste regulations. Here are some
of the proposed changes:
- Hawaii will adopt the solvent contaminated wipes rule, and will require their containers to be marked with an accumulation start date
- Spent lead acid batteries will have to be managed as universal waste, unless they are sent for regeneration
- EPA exemptions for used oil processors related to emergency equipment and aisle space were not adopted
- Reporting requirements for emergency incidents apply not only to hazardous waste, but also hazardous secondary materials, transporters of used oil, used oil processors, and TSDFs
- Universal waste transporters must maintain the same records required for large quantity handlers of universal waste, for their waste shipments
- Used oil generators must keep records of waste shipments
- Used oil containers must be kept closed
- Used oil transporters must make hazardous waste determinations for used oil sent for disposal
- Generators of hazardous waste must keep a log of their required weekly inspections
- The State has not adopted EPA’s standard hazardous waste facility permit, nor the Academic Laboratory alternative standards
- Electronic items may be managed as universal waste
Ethanol Summit Getting Industry, Environmental Regulators on Same Page
State regulators and biofuel industry leaders want Minnesota companies to be able to grow quickly and create jobs without sacrificing environmental standards. With those common goals, they formed a public-private collaboration to reduce complexity and streamline the process for permitting while bolstering environmental compliance for all industries in the state. It started with a meeting last year of representatives from the state’s 20 ethanol plants and officials from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Dept. of Agriculture.
With an eye toward environmental stewardship and clean business productivity, the second "ethanol summit" convened June 28 in Willmar to review progress and set future objectives.
Ethanol production plants operate with a variety of state and federal environmental permits regulating air emissions, water use, and stormwater and wastewater management
“The meetings of the joint state-ethanol industry work group have resulted in a cooperative, improved understanding of how to work with each other,” says Sarah Kilgriff, manager of the land and air compliance in the MPCA’s Industrial Division. “It is already leading to better regulatory outcomes for the environment and producers in the ethanol industry.”
The meetings help to see other perspectives and create a better understanding of the complexity of the respective processes. The MPCA has defined the most urgent and useful information needed for the industry. The industry better understands how to work with the MPCA and the regulatory process.
The MPCA already has made some changes. New permit language allows more flexibility in making facility changes to avoid triggering the permit amendment process. “Working together produces better outcomes for Minnesotans in terms of both the environment and economy compared with top-down regulation,” Kilgriff says. “Industry participants say they have great relationships with the MPCA and confidence that they can do a better job growing the industry.”
Minnesota is a national leader in ethanol policy and development. It was the first state to mandate the use of ethanol in motor vehicle fuel. State law requires that all gasoline sold in Minnesota contain 10 percent biofuel — that being exclusively ethanol. The 20 plants in Minnesota produce more than one billion gallons of clean biofuel annually providing a market for more than 400 million bushels of corn. A by-product, distillers dried grains, is used for livestock feed.
EPA to Require No Further Action to Meet Good Neighbor Obligations of 2008 Ozone Standard
EPA has proposed to determine that the 2016 Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) Update satisfies “good neighbor” obligations in the 2008 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone. The “good neighbor” (or “interstate transport”) provision requires upwind states to control their emissions so as not to cause air quality problems in downwind states.
According to EPA, this new proposal is intended to provide certainty to states across the country. Instead of imposing additional top-down regulations, this action analyzes air quality trends and modeling that show states in the CSAPR Update region will meet the 2008 ozone NAAQS after the CSAPR Update is fully implemented, and additional upwind reductions are not required.
“Based on progress in reducing concentrations and precursor emissions of ozone, this proposed action will close out the CSAPR approach to ‘good neighbor’ obligations, which has involved the imposition of federal implementation plans and lingering uncertainty for our state partners,” said EPA Office of Air and Radiation Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum. “Starting this year, we expect states to step up to address these interstate obligations and EPA has identified technical tools and flexibilities to facilitate these plans.”
The latest EPA air quality data and modeling predict that by 2023 there will be no remaining nonattainment or maintenance areas for the 2008 Ozone NAAQS in the CSAPR Update region, which encompasses most of the eastern United States. Once the 2016 CSAPR Update is fully implemented, upwind states in this region are not expected to contribute significantly to nonattainment or interfere with maintenance of 2008 ozone standards in any downwind state.
Under the new proposal, EPA and these 20 states would have no obligation to establish additional requirements for sources to further reduce transported ozone pollution to meet the 2008 ozone NAAQS.
EPA is proposing minor, clerical revisions to the existing CSAPR Update regulations to reflect the Agency’s proposed determination that the Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs) in place for the covered states fully address the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” provisions for the 2008 ozone NAAQS. The proposal would apply to states currently subject to CSAPR Update FIPs, as well as any states for which EPA has approved replacement of CSAPR Update FIPs with CSAPR Update State Implementation Plans (SIPs).
Earlier this year, EPA provided more information
, including updated modeling and a list of potential flexibilities, to help states to develop their “good neighbor” state plans under the 2015 ozone NAAQS, which are due in October 2018.
“Good neighbor” obligations under the Clean Air Act (CAA) require upwind states to reduce pollution that could significantly contribute to downwind states’ inability to attain and maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). See 42 U.S.C. § 110(a)(2)(D)(i)(I).
Under the CAA, each state is required to submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) that provides for the implementation, maintenance, and enforcement of each NAAQS to EPA. Each state must make this new SIP submission within 3 years after EPA issues a new or revised NAAQS. A key CAA requirement for these SIPs is that they must assure that emissions in upwind states do not contribute significantly to problems with attainment or maintenance of the NAAQS in downwind states (known as the “good neighbor” or “interstate transport” provision). If a state does not submit a good neighbor SIP, or if the EPA disapproves the SIP, EPA must issue a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP).
City of Rainier, Oregon Fined for Discharging Sewage to Columbia River
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has fined the City of Rainier
$23,700 for multiple violations involving its sewage treatment plant. Violations include discharging raw sewage to the Columbia River on 36 occasions in 2017 and 2018, failing to notify DEQ and the public about many of those sewage overflows, and failing to properly report results of water quality monitoring.
DEQ inspectors discovered several months of water quality monitoring reports from 2013 and 2014 that were identical to reports from previous months.
“Given the variability in untreated wastewater and treatment processes, the probability that the treatment plant had identical monitoring results is infinitesimal,” said Kieran O'Donnell, DEQ manager of compliance and enforcement.
Raw sewage poses a substantial risk to human health and is a harmful water pollutant. DEQ requires the city to monitor its wastewater, maintain records and report sewage overflows to protect public health and the environment.
Rainier has 20 days to appeal the violations.
Pruitt Issues Memo to Weaken EPA’s Hand in Water Permitting Process
EPA is taking action toward relaxing the regulations governing EPA’s role in permitting discharges of dredged or fill materials under section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). In a memorandum
to the Office of Water and Regional Administrators, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt outlined changes that EPA will propose that, according to the memo, would increase predictability and regulatory certainty for landowners, investors, businesses, and other stakeholders.
“Today’s memo refocuses EPA on its core mission of protecting public health and the environment in a way that is fair and consistent with due process,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “We must ensure that EPA exercises its authority under the Clean Water Act in a careful, predictable, and prudent manner.”
EPA’s current regulations on the implementation of section 404(c) of the CWA allow the Agency to veto – at any time –a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) or an approved state that allows for the discharge of dredged or fill material at specified disposal sites. The memo directs EPA’s Office of Water to develop a proposed rulemaking that would consider the following changes:
- Eliminating the authority to initiate the section 404(c) process before a section 404 permit application has been filed with the USACE or a state, otherwise known as the “preemptive veto.”
- Eliminating the authority to initiate the section 404(c) process after a permit has been issued by the USACE or a state, otherwise known as the “retroactive veto.”
- Requiring a Regional Administrator to obtain approval from EPA Headquarters before initiating the section 404(c) process.
- Requiring a Regional Administrator to review and consider the findings of an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the USACE or a state before preparing and publishing notice of a proposed determination.
- Requiring EPA to publish and seek public comment on a final determination before such a determination takes effect.
The robust National Environmental Policy Act explicitly requires federal agencies to consider environmental effects from proposed projects and include opportunities for public review and comment. Additionally, in the four decades since EPA’s regulations were last revised, the environmental statutory and regulatory landscape has changed dramatically. Given these existing protections and significant changes, updating EPA’s authority under section 404(c) will advance EPA’s core mission of protecting human health and the environment while improving predictability and regulatory certainty.
U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), issued the following statement regarding the memo, “Through this memo, EPA has signaled that it will provide businesses, including energy companies, with the certainty they need to secure permits under the Clean Water Act,” said Barrasso. “In the past, the agency has sent mixed messages to companies seeking permits. Today’s action is the first step to stop the agency from unfairly using the permitting process to slow projects. Congress should also pass the Regulatory Certainty Act to give businesses the long-term certainty they need.”
EPA’s proposal, after undergoing interagency review, will be available for public review and comment.
As a side note, it appears as though on Pruitt’s memo, EPA’s seal was changed from ocean-blue (or sometimes green or green and blue), that’s been used by the Agency for years, to gold. The new color isn’t on EPA’s style book
or the Agency’s style page
. Is there a message in the color change?
Environmental News Links
Trivia Question of the Week
What is an episodic hazardous waste generator?
- A site that only generates hazardous waste during either emergencies, accidents, or weather events
- A site that is normally a small or very small quantity generator that has a one-time event that increases their generator status
- A site that frequently changes its generator status between large and small quantity generator
- All of the above