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EPA Regulatory Agenda Emphasizes Climate Change, Chemical Security, Clean Water, Air

Friday, November 29, 2013

By Anthony Adragna

Nov. 27 --The Environmental Protection Agency in 2014 plans to develop regulations aimed at addressing climate change, securing chemicals, providing clean water and improving air quality, according to an updated regulatory agendaposted Nov. 26.

All are long-standing priorities for EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, as they were for her predecessor, Lisa Jackson.

“Science, law and transparency continue to guide EPA decisions,” the agency said in its statement of priorities. “EPA will leverage resources with grant and incentive-based programs, sound scientific advice, technical and compliance assistance and tools that support states, tribes, cities, towns, rural communities and the private sector in their efforts to address our shared challenges.”

The regulatory agenda, released by the White House Office of Management and Budget, outlines federal agencies' regulatory priorities for the coming months. Many of the EPA goals in the document are also included in the agency's draft strategic plan for fiscal years 2014-2018, which was released.

Six Priorities Outlined.

In its regulatory agenda, the EPA listed six priorities that will guide its forthcoming rulemakings. They are:

  • making a visible difference in communities across the country;
  • addressing climate change and improving air quality;
  • taking action on toxics and chemical safety;
  • protecting water;
  • launching a new era of state, tribal and local partnership; and
  • working toward a sustainable future.

Most of those priorities date back to the early days of former EPA Administrator Jackson's tenure with the agency. McCarthy identified addressing climate change, reforming chemical safety regulations and improving the nation's regulation of water as some of her personal priorities in a September speech .

Specific proposals in the agency's chemical and water divisions were also outlined in the document (see related stories)..

Power Plant Regulations.

In its statement of priorities, the EPA confirmed it intends to issue proposed new source performance standards for carbon dioxide emissions from existing and modified power plants in 2014.

Under the Clean Air Act, the agency must review and, if necessary, revise its new source performance standards every eight years. According to its regulatory agenda, the EPA intends to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking in February 2014 and finalize a rule by September 2014.

The agency also intends to finalize its renewable fuel standard regulation by February 2014, according to the agenda. The agency will formally publish its proposed rule on the renewable fuel standard for 2014 on Nov. 29 (see related story).

As part of its goal to improve the efficiency of government, the EPA plans to update regulations on the Freedom of Information Act by publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking in December and finalizing the rule by May 2014.

The EPA said the modified FOIA rules will allow it to “comply with the 2007 Open Government Act, reflect EPA's business process, and correct obsolete information.”

The agency's FOIA rules were last updated in 2002, according to the agenda.

Compliance with existing FOIA regulations has been a source of contention and lawsuits at the agency. Most recently, two public interest groups sued the agency to release e-mails related to potential coal export facilities in the Northwest .

Fracking Regulation.

According to the agenda, the agency also anticipates publishing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in August 2014 under the Toxic Substances Control Act's sections 8(a) and 8(d) to obtain data on chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing.

The EPA will “initiate a stakeholder process to provide input on the design and scope of the TSCA reporting requirements that would be included in a proposed rule” and anticipates states, industry, public interest groups and members of the public will participate in the process.

The agency will initiate the rulemaking in response to a petition but stressed it hadn't committed to a specific rulemaking outcome.

Notably absent from the agency's rulemaking agenda was a mention of the long-delayed final rule on the management of coal combustion residuals from power plants.

A federal judge Oct. 29 ordered the agency to offer a timeline within 60 days for completing its work on the regulation. Environmental groups have said the lack of federal regulation of coal ash endangers human health and the environment, while recycling groups argue that regulatory uncertainty surrounding the proposal has crippled their industry .

The agency wasn't immediately available to comment on the rule's status.